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Monday, April 12, 2010

Fledglings

Those of you who have been reading Middle Passages for a while know that in some regard, I experienced a rebirth last year. Climbing to my feet, I wobbled through a baby step and then smiled as I took another. Hand-over-handing the length of the low furniture, sometimes I fell down on a padded bottom. Forward progress still feels new and Saturday it occurred to me that just as I was beginning to understand the rhythm of the steps, someone increased the tempo.

Two days ago, I cracked the door to wake my teenager, our only child, who slept sideways on wrinkled striped sheets, one exposed cheek curved, rounded and flushed above a rose-colored blanket--her full lips parting slightly as she exhaled. As I gazed at the faint movement of her soft lashes, a sixteen-year old-memory surfaced, of holding her as an infant in a wing-back chair one evening under the muted glow of a forty-watt bulb. That night, she slept in my arms and I stared at the damp bud of a mouth that had just released an evening bottle and the wisps of blonde hair sweeping flat across the white skin of her head. Feasting my eyes with a swollen yearning to savor and save, I promised myself that I’d always remember the image of her at that moment, the pearled skin, a button nose, the hot hand that clenched my little finger.

It’s been clear for a while that our daughter is a young woman now. Yet, Saturday, as she sighed and stretched oblivious to me, the face that I recorded all those years ago slept there on her twin bed beneath brown hair escaping from a tangled ponytail, beside the pile of cast-off clothes dotting the pink landscape of her painted room. Once again, I caught myself aching to freeze time, to clench her image tight and hard in my palm. Only on this particular morning, she caught me, waking to wrinkle her forehead and ask “What?”

And then, once she was up and dressed, we traveled over the hills and past the boarded-up ocean cottages one town over so she could apply for a first, real summer job, for which she was hired on the spot and advised to check in later this week for her schedule. I drove her there knowing that a license test is scheduled for the immediate future and in a matter of short days she should have the independence to climb behind the wheel and drive the rutted roads to this seaside resort. In a few weeks, she’ll serve pizza and fried clams to tourists and sweep piles of sand from the ceramic tiled floor. She’ll bring home a paycheck and likely scatter with some of the freedom that money provides, and though this is what we want for her, this is how it has to be, I didn’t expect that as a result, I’d wake today with a lump in my throat, staggering under another earthquake of change.

Again, tectonic plates are shifting and I am grabbing for solid walls. For almost 17 years, this child, this beautiful, funny, clever, resourceful girl, so mature that we call her “The Littlest Grown Up,” has nonetheless relied on us. On top of which, over the last fourteen months, because of time carved out following my job elimination, she has partnered with me for afternoon coffees and drives to the beach and when homework and my lack of freelance work allows, clandestine trips to matinee movies.

Now, this gift of time with her that I never expected to get and therefore cherished and celebrated all the more for the surprise of it, is just about over. It's right that she takes these strong steps on her own. But my own legs are quivering because I’m scared I’m going to falter, now that this most important of jobs is almost over too.

14 comments:

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

That was gorgeously written, so filled with detail and insight. Don't worry too much about this change, though. You will find the relationship can be just as rewarding when your daughter is grown. Again, this was beautiful. Thank you.

Robin said...

There are so many levels to respond to this... you wrote it beautifully. You are very gifted with painting the picture. As for the content, you are very lucky. So often teenagers and their parents are at odds. For proof on this one, you can read some of my writing... I believe I called it THIS ONE'S FOR MOM. We are very close now, but when I was your daughter's age, it was Rough. So what you have together is a blessing.

On a totally different note, I read your lighthouse piece. I enjoyed that very much. It reminded me of my own beach blog. Again, a totally different kind of story. Our styles are so different. You write with poetry and finesse. Next to your stuff, mine is like fingernails on a chalkboard. I am laughing now. I believe it was called A DAY AT THE BEACH. Since I don't have that much material to click through, and if you feel so inclined, you can find them both. You will see what I mean...

Carolina Valdez Miller said...

So beautiful, Liza. It brought tears to my eyes, as it made me think of my own little, big girl, now 13. So many trials, but so much beauty. How quickly they grow on us.

But you won't falter. You'll do as you've always done, and you will be strong for her. And you will learn to be strong for you, too. and you'll rejoice when she stands on her own two feet, and you will know that you've had a hand in that.

Tamika: said...

Oh Liza, what a beautiful post. Don't worry about losing any part of her, because the older I get the closer my mom and I become. She is my best friend.

rae said...

I just want you to know I CRIED, AT WORK over this post.

Beautiful.

Sharon said...

I saw my own daughters as I read your beautiful words. All of my girls are in their 40's and autonomous, but the job of mother has not gone away. It has only changed.

Wishing you many years of love and joy as her mother.

Zoe C. Courtman said...

OMG, you just nailed it for all us moms. My own isn't that grown yet (he's 13) but, I swear, that child hit middle school and time just started flying by. I actually found myself praying last night to go to sleep and wake up in 1997 with my baby boy, so I could do it again, and not get so mad at things, recapture missed opportunities, and just...revel in him. *tears up* No one said motherhood would be this painful. But you're right, it's good for them to march into their own lives on strong legs - those same legs that'll keep bringing them back to us. Hugs, mom! (P.S. I'm also a freelance copywriter. Hi, from sunny, southern Freelancer Land!)

Michelle McLean said...

Beautiful post! I think I need to go stare at my own sleeping girl :)

Helen Ginger said...

A really wonderful post - one you should save and give to your daughter in about ten years.

Treasure these days. Photograph them in your mind.

Helen
Straight From Hel

Elana Johnson said...

What a moving post. I too, would like to freeze time and keep my kids in the exact place they are. And have been before. It is truly a gift.

Maribeth said...

What a beautiful post!
So many memories to hold in heart and mind.
Make sure you save this to give her. She will remember it when she is sitting in the chair or standing at the door.

Simon C. Larter said...

Just lovely, good lady. As one whose children are all quite small, I wonder how I'll feel when my daughters are that age, near-women. I'm assuming I will be rather terrified.

I know I won't be the only one to feel that, though, and perhaps that will help.

glnroz said...

I am glad you mentioned this post again, I missed it the first time...Oh but to have to realized that three times for an old codger..

Flameater said...

Hi Liza, you write very well and I enjoy readingyour posts very much. Two of my children are over 16 and I still can't get over it. Like you, yesterday's memories linger on vividly. There are so many things that I wished I had done better. But I will settle for seeing that they turn out fine.