Sometimes I'm certain I don't know her. The woman who notices every stain and smudge on the stove and kitchen counter tops. The woman who keeps five different personal schedules in her head and is able to coordinate them with the apparent ease of a professional juggler. The dedicated mother who walks the middle path between authoritarian and permissive parenting. The woman who puts together a nutritionally-balanced meal while her head is throbbing and every part of her body screams in pain. The woman who, all on her own, has mastered the art of the personal essay. The woman whose mother appears bemused and sometimes a little bit dotty.
Once upon a time, there was a little girl with blazing curls -- a little piece of the sun. A child who created mythological pantheons at the age of two. A child whose vocabulary and weaving of words was extraordinary. This child did not concern herself with orderliness. Or chores that had to be done. Fantasy always came first. Her mind was a marvelous tangle of fairytale vines. Storytelling defined her world. When presented with a jigsaw puzzle, her imagination turned the assorted pieces into cookies and tarts, while Lincoln Logs became sausages to be served at the royal feast.
I knew that little girl. I celebrated her creativity. I bribed, cajoled and threatened her into half cleaning her room. I encouraged her passion for social justice. I punished her for dressing the cats in doll's clothes. I nagged at her to choose something besides one of the two preferred dresses she insisted on wearing to school. I challenged her to "cowboy up" and stop whining over every small discomfort. Together we explored the children's classics and created unique costumes for her to wear on Halloween. We invented "Darth Vader's Underwear" jokes, thumbing our noses at the forces of darkness. That little girl perceived me as competent, almost omnipotent...
until she didn't anymore.
We are never the people we started out to be.
A baby becomes a child, the child a teenager, the teenager a grownup, the grownup a wrinkled geezer or enfeebled crone. Many transformations happen along the way. We are never the people we started out to be.
Sometimes love survives these transformations; sometimes it does not.
Teenagers are sometimes cast out of their homes; elderly parents are sometimes neglected.
Sometimes parents and progeny quietly drift apart...
I look again at the woman scrubbing the burners on the stove, the woman who has just completed a humorous and insightful blog post. Suppressed laughter sparkles in her blue-green eyes because her youngest son has just said something unintentionally funny. A ray of the westward-slanting sun makes sparks of her bronze and copper curls. For a moment, I see my grownup little girl. I smile at her and think, "Ah, yes, I know you now."