Inheritance

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March 2007.  While I rarely think we look alike, I do in this picture.

“Here.  Put your hands under her armpits,” my midwife instructed, urgency in her voice.  With that, I pulled Grace onto my chest myself.  She and I both cried, Matt pronounced her a girl, and they took her away to be weighed.  I looked around the room, a wild fear that I have never forgotten galloping in my chest.  I had never been more tired, but at the same time every single nerve jangled with awareness.

Someone brought Grace to me and I reached out for her blanket-wrapped body.  Her eyes were closed.  I looked at her, anticipating the surge of recognition I had been told to expect.  I searched her face, waiting for something to break through the frozen numbness that filled me.

Finally, I looked up at Matt, my eyes full of tears.  “She has a cleft chin, just like me.”  Grace’s chin was literally the first thing to ring the bell that said: this is my child.

****

I sat on the edge of Grace’s bed to tuck her in.  Without looking up from her book, she held up a finger and whispered, “I just want to finish my page.”  I watched her in silence.  After a few seconds she put her bookmark in her book and leaned back against her pillows.  She looked at me and frowned.

“What?”

“Do you ever feel anxious that you won’t have time to read all the books you want to read?”  I nodded.  “I mean, I just want to read so many things.”  She pointed at her bookshelf, where a shelf of to-be-read were lined up.  “I’m scared that I won’t get to them all.

****

On one recent car ride, I have no memory of specifically where, Grace was trying to read in the back seat.  After a few minutes I heard her shut her book and sigh.  I glanced in the rear view mirror to see that she was looking out the window.

“Are you carsick?”

“Yeah.”  Grace sounded dejected.

“Remember, try to look through the front.”  She turned her head and peered through the windshield.  “I’m sorry, Grace.  I know you got that from me.”  I can’t ride in a car for ten minutes without feeling sick.  I’ve had to have taxis pull over between Laguardia and the city so that I can throw up.

“That’s okay, Mum.  You gave me so many good things, too.”  I caught Grace’s eye in the rear view mirror, eyebrows raised, curious. “You know, like my brain.  And my looks.”  I burst out laughing and she joined me.

******

We took Grace’s best friend from camp to the airport at the end of a wonderful and much-anticipated weekend visit.  After we put her on the airplane, Grace dissolved into tears.  I hugged her and felt her chest heaving against mine.  We went home, walked to the park to watch Whit and Matt throwing a baseball, shared a happy family dinner, read a book, went to bed.

On and off throughout the evening Grace was tearful, her glossy eyes and mild frown occasionally breaking into full-blown sobs.  Several times she asked me forlornly for a hug and to take deep breaths together, something we’ve done for years when she needs to calm herself down.

By the time I tucked her in, I felt spent, at the end of my own rope, out of soothing responses to her sadness.  Grace looked at me, her cheeks wet, her eyes beseeching, asking without words for me to make her feel better, to take away this howling missing.  Of course I can’t, and when I reflect on it I realize some of my own aggravation was surely that her feelings were uncomfortably familiar, ringing bells of identification deep in my chest.

I looked back at her.  “Just try to think about how lucky you are to have such a wonderful best friend,” I said quietly.

Her gaze on me was steady and felt appraising.  She swallowed.  “This feeling is just part of the deal, right?  To have such happy things in life, you are also going to have this.  Right?”  I nodded at her, blinking.  “The great stuff and the sad stuff.  You can’t have one without the other.”

****

Sometimes, it takes my breath away, the way parts of me glint in her like strands of gold (as glittery, though rarely as beautiful) catching the light in a fabric.


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14 Comments

  1. Posted May 20, 2013 at 4:46 am | Permalink

    What a beautiful tribute to two beautiful girls.

    admin Reply:

    Oh, thank you. xox

  2. Posted May 20, 2013 at 5:05 am | Permalink

    This post is so beautiful. Thank you.

    admin Reply:

    Thank YOU. xo

  3. Posted May 20, 2013 at 5:57 am | Permalink

    I know how she feels about the books. I choose to think of it like, at least I will never be bored in my whole life because there will always be something good to read.
    Beautiful post, yet again.

    admin Reply:

    That is a much better way to look at it! Consider your positive view adopted here. Thank you.

  4. Posted May 20, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    She is wise beyond her years, she gets that from you as well.

    admin Reply:

    Oh, I hope you are right. xox

  5. Posted May 20, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    I love that your Grace has an awareness of both the “great” and the “sad” being part of the same picture. What a wonderful gift you’ve given her. Beautiful post.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you. I love that we both have Graces! xo

  6. Posted May 20, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I love the threads of love, connection, and admiration that run through this piece. Your daughter is so wise and reflective, and she sees you in herself. What a gift for a parent!

    admin Reply:

    Well, thank you – that is such a nice thing to say. I feel intense admiration for her. I know the days are coming, and soon, when she will be less interested in reflecting in all the ways we are similar. So I guess I am trying to cherish them now!

  7. Posted May 20, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    I think she looks SO much like you. This is so beautiful in that sad and glorious and true way. I too see the gifts and burdens I have given my son, and they are ALWAYS so much wiser than me and seem to know what to do with them in ways I don’t.

    You and Grace both share a grace about how to deal with loss and longing. I learn so much from this blog – and now from Grace herself.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. It doesn’t feel like something I do gracefully, to be honest – more like something I have no choice but to suffer and try to strong-arm my way through, all of this loss and longing that seem to keep piling on my head everywhere I turn. xox

  8. Posted May 20, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    Such a beautiful post, Lindsey. I know I relish the moments when I seem to feel exactly what my kids are feeling — that flash of understanding where I completely “get” them. Sometimes I wish they only had my sparkly-glittery parts — not the anxious and emotional bits. But, then again, I’m glad that I can see those parts in them, recognize and understand and help. And, as your Grace says, you can’t have the bright without the sorrow.

    admin Reply:

    Yes! That flash of understanding. It’s eerie sometimes, isn’t it? I have often joked that parenting is, at its essence, confronting your own worst traits animate in another person. But it’s not really a joke, at least not for me! I feel such guilt about the difficult things I know they’ve gotten from me. But it is helpful to remind myself that there are some good things too.

  9. jenn
    Posted May 20, 2013 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Such a beautiful post….and a beautiful bond the two of you share. I am a single mom, and I can relate to this post. My bean thanks me for her brain and her love for art all the time. 🙂 <3

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much. I hope that our daughters always have the awareness to thank us … xox

  10. Posted May 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    This is beautiful, and your daughter is so wise! Thanks for sharing such touching stories ~ I love the one about the books.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so much! xo

  11. Melissa Vazquez
    Posted May 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Aww she kinda looks like my Kristina:)

    admin Reply:

    🙂 xox

  12. Posted May 20, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    So beautiful Lindsey. And such a gift to your daughter: all that love and clear seeing of who she is and what she needs. Her inheritance is large indeed.

    admin Reply:

    Thank you so, so much. I know you know the gift of being truly seen. I guess that if I had to choose one thing I want to give my children above all else, that would be it.

  13. Margaret
    Posted May 20, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful, reflective post as always. As I have done on many occasions, I read it to my 10 year old Carly (who always appreciates good writing, but is still too young to understand everything. Still, its essence did not elude her.) She too has a cleft chin (but not from me)…Carly is also a voracious reader and insisted I read “The Running Dream”, by Wendelin Van Draanen. I will finish it tonight and highly recommend it, for both of you. Your response above prompts my recommendation, as this book is all about being truly seen. Also, being a runner yourself, you will especially be able to relate, I’m sure! Enjoy!

  14. Posted May 23, 2013 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

    As a momma of three girlies, this post resonates deep in my soul. It thrills me and terrifies me all at the same time.

    admin Reply:

    Oh, I know that thrill-terror combination! 🙂