We went back and forth in the swing and listened as the songbirds began their day as they always do. We heard the morning newspaper land softly on the top step as it always does.
“I think I need to travel far away,” she said to me as I cradled her snugly inside my jacket. “I think I need to go so far away that I am lost.”
“Why do you want to do that, Amelia?”
“Then I will know if I can be lost and not afraid.”
I didn’t say anything. I just listened. We kept swinging back and forth together.
“Then I will need to know if I can find my way back home again to you and the others.”
“Why do you need to know that, Amelia?”
She looked far off into the start of the morning sunrise. “Because if I can make it back, then it will mean I really do belong here after all, and I will never need to go away ever again.”
“And if I can not make it back, then that will mean something else. I do not know what it will mean, but if it happens like that, then I will know.”
She looked up at me to make sure I wasn’t angry or disappointed with her.
“What if I find out I belong somewhere else? It could be like that. You know?”
Then she said what troubled her the most. “What if I find I want to come back, but I can not?”
“Amelia, you have been thinking about these things for a long time, haven’t you?”
There was a silence all around us except for the soft, steady creaking of the front porch swing. Even the morning songbirds had suddenly become quiet.
Then she asked, “What do you think?”
“You should never make a decision out of fear. Not a decision to remain or a decision to leave. Love and fear don’t ever belong together.”
Amelia thought over these words carefully.
“I think you have to do what your heart is telling you to do. Your heart is like a compass. Either way, whether you stay or leave, my heart will be broken. But you know that already, don’t you?”
“What do you mean?”
“If you do not travel far away to answer all the questions you have, you will never be at peace. I don’t think you would be happy not knowing those answers. Your unhappiness would break my heart even though I still had you here with me.”
“And if I traveled far away?”
“My heart would be broken every minute you were away, but I would know you were doing what you had to do, and that would make me happy for you, and so the pain would not be as bad.”
“Would you wait for me to come back?”
“Without a doubt, I would wait for you and watch for you every day. And when I saw you, I would run to greet you and hold you close again just like now.”
“You realize I might not come back? And then you would be waiting for nothing?”
“No. I wouldn’t be waiting for nothing. You are so much more than nothing. I love you, Amelia. You know I would fly with you if I could, don’t you?”
“Yes. I know that now.”
“Do you need for me to help you pack? Is there anything you want to take with you?”
“No. I don’t really own anything other than myself.”
“Yes, I know. But I thought you might want to carry a little container of sunflower kernels with you. They are small, but they have a lot of energy in them that you might need.”
“Can I decide later? Maybe tomorrow?”
“Yes, of course you can. Take as long as you need.”
I held her closer still. We watched as the sun began to paint the clouds in the early morning sky.
“Would it be alright if I give you a good-bye kiss on the head now? I don’t want to forget later. And you might find that the time to leave is when I’m not here.”
“Yes, I guess that would be okay,” she said.
We both closed our eyes, not wanting the moment to end. “You are so much more than nothing,” I whispered in her ear.