My daughter caught me staring at her as we sat in the crowded waiting room, listening to numbers tick off at the Registry of Motor Vehicles this afternoon. Back one night, oh, some sixteen years ago, I held her in my lap in the dim light of the family room after a midnight bottle, memorizing the shape of her full lips, the blossom of her cheeks, the pressure of her little hand wrapped around my finger. That night I repeated to myself, “I want to remember this moment forever.” I haven’t made it to forever yet, but the memory surfaces on occasions such as today, while we waited for her turn to apply for her learner’s permit. Apparently my gaze was a wee bit intense; she looked back at me asking, “Why are you staring at me?”
How do you explain that you are trying to recapture not only time, but the essence of that long ago moment? When you have an only child the world is filled with fleeting firsts you grab onto because they’ll never be repeated. That even as an exhausted new mother, the freshness, the victory, the absolute awe of being responsible for a child overwhelms with the warmth that it weaves into your life. That today, sitting on wooden benches waiting for her number to come up merely added to the clear pool of accomplishment that she owns--but that we as her parents sip from too. I couldn’t begin to describe how our pride in her continues to spread like the yellow sun drops in the garden, cheerful blooms that started from one small planting that have scattered seeds until petals raise their heads through all the flower beds. So while she looked back at me bemused, I kept my lips locked and shrugged my shoulders when she asked why I was staring. Giving voice to these memories would surely bring an “Oh Mom,” or even worse, “Moth-er!” response, and I was enjoying the moment just the way it was, thank you very much.
I sat quietly as the loudspeaker crackled, spitting out “Number C334 to window 15!” and, as she walked into the bright light of the testing office and signed onto the computer. I let her have her fun with me when she dragged herself back after she completed the test, pretending she had failed. Paying up, we grinned at each other as we left the office. Permit in hand, she asked if she could drive home, laughing when I eyeballed the congested road we'd exit to and shook my head, “Not yet.” Climbing into the car, I filed the picture of my dozing infant, instead imagining her long legs climbing into the driver's seat--recognizing how soon she’ll be in control.
Before putting the car in gear, I reached over to grab her grown up hand. For an instant that long ago memory flickered one more time when instead of taking my hand, as she has for many years now she offered me her index finger--and I gave it a little squeeze.