May 21st, 2007
I peek at my daughter while she’s sleeping, just like I did when she was a child, and my heart, not knowing the difference between one decade or the next, softens and expands all the same. My child is home, she’s sleeping, and my home is once again happily littered with clothes and bags, pictures and gadgets. This time, though, I have no urge to pick anything up or put it away. The mess is a tender comfort, and the child is a grown woman, a brave, spirited, and compassionate soldier who has returned home safely.
There are over 6,000 parents who weren’t able to know this feeling of joy and relief. Spouses and children who had their lives forever changed by the loss of a partner, a father, a mother. There’s no rhyme or reason to the losses — no informed choice of death or survival — it’s almost all just stupid luck and circumstance.
I have been lucky not once, but twice. There’s some ominous feeling about that, as if good fortune has been stretched to the limit and might snap back into disaster if one more chance is taken. There are feelings of guilt and pride, sadness and relief. I have done nothing to warrant the good fortune bestowed upon my family, but I am overjoyed that it was granted. So many did not make it home, and when I look at my daughter, I can’t help but also see their faces, one after the next, as I recall them from the nightly news.
She’s sleeping, though, and there are so many things to do. A whole future that I am blessed to help plan and be a part of — a first home to buy, a first set of furniture — all the firsts that come with being a fully grown woman. It’s still hard for me to realize — not so much that she’s grown — but that I am the mother of an adult.
I was a young mother, but I can’t say we grew up together. Even at nineteen, I was a few years into my own adulthood. What I can say is that she has consistently made my soul feel younger than either my experience then, or my years now.
We share DNA and a certain spirit of fortitude, but she’s my opposite in so many ways. An extrovert to my introvert. The physical to my cerebral. If there’s a social event, she will walk away with a new handful of friends — I will spend the briefest amount of time shaking hands before stealing out of the nearest exit. She loves malls, crowds, and big events. If I could afford it, I’d be voluntarily agoraphobic. She likes to run, and I prefer a slow walk — late in the evening when everyone else has gone to bed. She loves photography — I’ve never owned a camera.
She is quintessentially feminine. Her makeup fills up an entire drawer, and her clothes and shoes overflow from the closet. I have three cosmetics and use most of my closet to store excess books and papers.
Yet, there’s never been a person I’ve gotten along with better. She can make me laugh even in the least laughable circumstance, and I can persuade her to temper her enthusiastic impulsiveness once in awhile. She understands my nature and fully accepts it, even while trying to convince me that sweating it out in a 105 degree yoga class is really quite a bit of fun. I just love that tenacity, and the drive she has to share all of her passions with me. It makes me feel like a best friend. Like a mom.
I am so lucky to hear that word in person again. I’m even a tad bit tempted to wake her just to hear her say it. But there’s a whole day ahead that starts in just a few hours. A belated Mother’s Day gift, lasting the entire day, that she has insisted I’m due. It starts with a crowded yoga class at 9:00 a.m., includes facials, manicures, and hair styles, but there’s a massage sometime in the early evening– before we go have our pictures taken.
I can hardly wait.