When my youngest daughter was about 10 months old, she got into this strange habit. You would lift her onto the bed, and she would crawl over and proceed to give kisses. She would kiss my hand, or my wife's hand, or, if either of us happened to be lying down, and she was able to crawl on up to face level, would give us a kiss on the nose or the cheek. But it wouldn't be just one kiss, it would be many. Too many to count. Every night our littlest went through this ritual, her way of saying goodnight, and every night the ritual would last about as long as it would take to say the rosary.
We called it "The Hundred Kisses."
At times I would be reading before sleep, and the little one would come on over, tug on my book or sheaf of papers insistently, until I put it aside, and would embark on the hundred kisses. Mostly, this made us smile. For whatever reason, our little one had turned out to be the most loving little thing we'd ever seen. But sometimes, being tired, I had little patience for it, and would shoo my little one off, or get off the bed and get a drink of water. At times my wife, depending on her mood, would also have little patience for it as well. But still, our determined little one would soldier on with her nightly ritual.
The other day, walking through a store, it hit my wife that the little one hadn't given us the hundred kisses in quite some time. We'd been so busy running around recently, with the ups and downs and daily tumult of married life, that we'd forgotten about the whole thing. At some point our little one had stopped giving us the hundred kisses, and the tragedy was not that she had stopped, but that we hadn't even noticed. This strange, sweet, odd gift, had slipped from our notice, and had disappeared.
That night, we picked up the little one, holding her close, asking her to give us a kiss, and she did, but only once. After that, she was eager to be off, to her toys, to her sister, or to the grandparents always waiting with arms wide open, just down the hall. As we watched her toddle off, it was a moment marked with sadness, that through our inattention, we'd lost something we'd only belatedly come to see as so very precious, and beyond value.
Was this a lesson, something to keep in mind as later children arrive and grow? Or was it an indictment of us, as parents, a portent of years to come, when some other sweet, strange, odd gift would appear, and we, too busy with what we thought was important, would again let it slip away?