Sometimes a child is the love of your life

We celebrated my daughter’s birthday.

‘I feel content,’ she said with her sole dimple deepening when I asked for one word that captured her birthday mood.

Music to mothers’ ears.

I smiled generously back at the daughter who is most of what I prayed for dappled with a few delicious surprise ingredients. I saw a happy, smart, spunky, successful woman who is good inside.

Nothing is missing, although more will emerge.

My contentment has ripened over a few decades of having curiously and proudly watched her unfold, pretty clear that I didn’t know what I was doing, but I meant well. I operated on instinct, intuition and good intentions. I tried to see the end at the beginning.

I can’t tell you why I skipped my usual perch at the laptop to be the first to post on her Facebook timeline at 12:01 a.m.; that artificial world that counts for nothing. I can however, say, that it was enough to post a pre-approved baby photo later and be the first call of the day.

With the day-to-day parenting over, we are more like sisters or friends now, although there remains a deep level of respect. I am still her go-to for advice and questions about roads I have traveled that she has not. Still lucky to be the first one she calls with exciting news. Still her biggest fan.

Sometimes a child is the love of your life.

When she was younger, with cute, plump chipmunk cheeks and barely hip-high, we frequently played in nature, hit the skating rinks, arcades, and the zoo. Then as she grew up, so did our outings.  Canvas and cork events, lectures and plays, concerts and travel – those are our things.

Our core relationship has always been forward moving, so I draw a blank when I hear parents wistfully wish for years past.  If I want a portal back into one of our memories, I pluck a picture that transports me there and call it good. Otherwise, our story is like one canvas we keep repainting over, remembering what lies beneath, while enjoying the current scene.

“I am still learning you,’ she told me not long ago when I found her suspiciously scrounging around in my pampering drawer and finding a surprise element I can’t mention.

I guess I am still learning her too, but noting the elements that were there from the beginning.

There is a point in every mother/child relationship where roles seem to flip. We are not quite there yet, but I have come to appreciate the times she takes charge and pays the restaurant tab, chooses a concert or play venue, calls a Lyft or offers to drive and brings me soup when I’m under the weather.

Every day is Mother’s Day.

She good at telling me if my fashion is age-appropriate too. When I was going through a very brief low-rise jean period, we were at a concert and up and down as you are. Suddenly she looked at me with big, round, mortified eyes and pulled my top down. It had ridden up, and you know, bare skin was on display. I do not embarrass easily, so my laughter met her scolding look. And last year, when I thought it might be time to surrender my shredded jeans and off-the-shoulder sweaters, I sent her a full-length selfie which she complimented it, so I’m still at it.

This is not the relationship I had with my mother. It is, however, the one I intended to have with my very own daughter. Long ago, I tried in my heart to tell our story from the end. On my death bed, we were reliving the wonderful canvas of our journey together. Lots of laughter, lots of love, lots of life.

Every year, while I am still here and lucid, I try to give her some memento traditionally given later on; something maybe she’d discover when I was gone, so she’d have it to enjoy sooner. The transfer of treasures. This year it was three postcards she sent herself from a church teen camp in the Midwest. They are quietly funny as she often is.

She travels for work, so if I’ve lost track of her, sometimes, like today, I simply text: ‘Where are you?’

When she replies, I adjust my sights. I am wherever she is. That is my reach.

She had to grow up. I had to let her go. But she is still wherever I am. That is her reach.

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