“Will they have things on them mouths so they won’t bite us when we see them?” Thea asked me as we stepped from the vapid July heat into the air-conditioned building. In front us a great wall stood fifty feet high, real dinosaur bones scattered in disorganized piles stuck in the rock from 150 million years ago—Dinosaur National Monument.
Thea’s question stopped me as I stood between her delicate peach body and the fossilized bones. I was no one with an answer. In part I was heart-broken at her question as I rewound my memory of her in my head: Squealing in her car seat with her cheeto fingers when she woke from her sweaty nap and we told her we were going to see the dinosaurs, eating her quesadilla at the restaurant at lunch while patting the babies toes and head unceasingly (which annoyed me), sticking her arms out in the parking lot as I sprayed her down with sunscreen, placing the plastic apatosaurus’ in a line at the gift shop before we got on the bus and finally, steeled and brave on the hot, grey vinyl seats of the shuttle bus where she thought we going to face live dinosaurs. I cannot quite explain why it breaks my heart open wide open to move through this sequence.
I think it is equal parts my stark recognition at my inability to give her everything she imagines and another part the clear bravery with which she entered the task from the very beginning. She hadn’t uttered a word of fear at the prospect of going to see live dinos and I know she knows how big dinosaurs are. We’ve been to the museums, compared our femurs to theirs. She’s seen the fossilized heads of teeth, knows they are not trifling. And still, that body of hers, soft as a feather and bristling as a badger, was ready and willing for whatever her dad and I were about to lead her into. Maybe then it is the trust that breaks my heart. Who am I to have another human trust me to the point of leading them into a building of live Dinosaurs? Or to buy their clothes, feed them food, brush their teeth, pick out their bedtime stories, teach them about God?
I cannot give her much, because I do not have much, but I do have a heart the broke apart and then grew into a wider field of flowers when I looked down at my daughter, standing next to those ancient bones and realized she was ready to face even the fiercest things of this world if I told her she could.