Grace and I were alone last weekend. It was lovely. We went out for dinner (both nights!). We walked down the street on Saturday to a neighborhood restaurant holding hands. We read our books for hours, sitting in bed next to each other. We finished Harry Potter 2 and watched the movie. We took a spin around a reservoir near us, she on her bike, me running, chatting the whole way.
These days she is wearing a necklace that came with a current favorite movie (picked out in the Lindsey-being-extra-permissive Mono Weeks), Princess Protection Program. The DVD came with two matching necklaces, each half of a whole, and she gave me one and put one on herself. As she presented it to me, she said, solemnly, “Because you are my BFF, Mummy. And I miss you when I’m not with you.”
Grace is my past, holding in her chocolate brown eyes all of my memories of my first difficult months as a mother, and my future, pulling me with her to the years that lie ahead. Sometimes when I’m with her I feel like I’m tumbling down the years back to my own childhood, lost in a hall of mirrors. The mirrors refract the light into a dazzling, confusing array of me and her and all the ways we are similar and different. In that somersaulting, interwoven identification lies both the source of my tight bond with my daughter and the root of many of my fears about parenting her well.
Grace is such a liminal creature right now – still a little girl, but the anticipation of a new phase of independence surrounds her too. She has a Miley Cyrus poster taped to her wall but still sleeps holding the two teddy bears she has slept with since she was born. She is so tall I do a double-take when I see her sometimes, wondering when this happened, but she needs me to tuck her in before bed. I can’t do anything to slow the onrush of time, and yet I still panic about it. I hold my hands out, trying to hold on, my fingers as useless to catch the time as they would be to grab water.
The weekend with Grace was two crystalline, gorgeous days, the kind of moments that I’m aware of passing even as I inhabit them. Then today I watched Kelly Corrigan’s video about her new book, Lift, out next week. I loved The Middle Place, and I’ve been eager for Kelly’s new book, but this video felt like she was peering into the deepest recesses of my mind. These words came up at the end of the 2 minute video:
For everyone who has been caught off guard by the pace and vulnerability of raising children.
My breath caught in my throat and I stared at the screen. Because I was stunned I was not fast enough to hit pause, so I watched it over again. And again. Tears flooded down my face. Yes. Seven and a half years in, I am still knocked off balance daily over by the way I can simultaneously rejoice in a moment with my children and mourn its passage. When the line “we won’t come back here” floats across the screen in Kelly’s video, I feel as though someone has reached in and squeezed my heart. This fact is inarguable, and almost unbearably bittersweet. The daily delights of motherhood are, for me, constantly and consistently circumscribed by the sadness of their transience. Isn’t this, in fact, its own kind of middle place?
Another 2010 retrospective repost, this from February.
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