Tuesday, June 13, 2006
My oldest child is 18 today. It was on a beautiful summer morning eighteen years ago that she was born. The air was clear and warm and I woke up at 5:30am having dreamt of a woman rowing a small boat with a little girl sitting in the prow. It was a dream version of the Impressionist painting with a brunette-haired woman with a young blonde-haired girl. I had no idea I would have a girl--well, not through science--but I certainly knew instinctively. My dream of the painting would become both a prophetic vision for her "birth" day and the years to come. For many years we have rowed together, Addie and I, and the way has been both choppy and smooth. I awoke on the day of her birth to my water breaking. When I was 25 there were still many unknowns in my life--Addie helped define and shape the "knowns". In many ways, she became my glue.
It is true what they say about childhood passing in a blink of an eye, but it is all so important--each and every minute. Like Emily discovers in the Thornton Wilder play OUR TOWN, you can never return or go back and it all goes by too quickly.
"Mama, just for a moment we're happy. Let's look at each other. Oh, Mama, just look at me for one minute as though you saw me."
My advice to anyone with young children: LOOK at them. Be in the moment with them. Otherwise, these moments are gone.
"Live people don't understand, do they?" Emily later says to the omniscient Stage Manager.
"No, dear. Not very much."
..."Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? Every minute?"
The stage manager shakes his head.
"No. The saints and poets, maybe. They do some."
I realize that 18 is not the end of our relationship as mother and daughter. But it is a big year for anyone. Addie now has her license and soon she will have a car. She is going to a foreign land to one of the world's most impoverished cities to help build houses. She will return to the relative comfort and prosperity of her life while being a well-paid, hardworking nanny for the summer. And her senior year and college await her...her whole life is ahead of her and it will be her life, less entangled with mine. But we mothers are allowed to savor the bittersweetness of this important threshold in a child's life.
If there is anything I hope to teach, or have taught, my children, it is that life is one glorious ride. There are good days and darker days but it is all truly wonderful if we embrace them fully. I hope my children will always embrace their lives and really LOOK at the people in them.