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There’s a certain rhythm track to a family, a unique and constant medley played unknowingly by each member, arranged by the house that holds them.
The sounds as my youngest daughter dances down the stairs with the first morning light. How the older teen laughs and whispers on the phone behind closed doors (sometimes in the bathroom with the tap running).
How both announce their joyous and/or heartbroken arrival at home with the clunk of shoes off distracted feet already halfway up the stairs, the bang of a backpack on the hall floor, the smack of the kitchen cupboard, then the fridge, then the cupboard, then the fridge.
The constant joyous bouncing of a basketball, which my youngest daughter does while watching TV, eating, doing homework, whatever, mom.
The delicious sound of my two girls talking together, the younger wide-eyed as the elder pats her head with a grin after dropping some bon mot on her like a missile.
The deep baritone of my husband as he sheds his briefcase and tired suit jacket and greets his girls at the end of the day.
Our family’s rhythm is about to experience a seismic shift, as my beloved teenaged girl is preparing for university “away” this fall.
Certainly, there are good things about this pending quake.
I will no longer need to guard certain coveted items that disappear from my bedroom – gym socks, black pantyhose, Q-tips and eyelash comb (the latter of which I never even knew existed until I had a teenager. Oh! The money one can spend at Sephora).
I will no longer feel the south side of the house heave when she shuts the side door – not full of teenage anger, but of so much soul, passion and energy that the door gets carried right along with her as she exits.
No more rinsing globs of ketchup off endless plates that have sat ignored, pining for the dishwasher. No more bending to pick up myriad teenage bits that have ended up in the wrong place; socks under the couch; scrunchies, trailing long blond hair, in the powder room; textbooks, index cards, markers, rulers, power cords, bus tickets and bottles of nail polish in blue, purple, fuchsia resting on any available counter/table/chair space.
No more drives, pickups, cab money. No more lying in bed waiting for the late arrival home from who knows where. No more taking silent stock of what she has eaten, how much she has slept, how much she laughs, how agonizing it is when friends are fickle or petty or mean.
Our youngest is 10, and I suspect we still have a few years before our she figures out the strategies teenagers perfect for getting what they want.
I consider myself a fairly accomplished person. A seasoned career. A rich family life. A decorated house. An active role in my community. But I’ve been a bug-eyed doe when my smart teen decided that she needed something and that I was the portal to getting it.
She’s the girl who set up a PowerPoint presentation when she was 8 and wanted a hamster.
Desiring a cellphone, and then a BlackBerry, she had our heads spinning with logic-based arguments (the item was necessary for survival), hard facts and data (how many of her friends had it), what was in it for us (a happy girl, naturally).
I’ll miss being the patsy for her brilliant manoeuvres.
Then there’s the stuff that shatters my heart in a thousand pieces when I think of losing her from this house.
She’s my first, my fair angel with china fine skin and a gentle, sweet nature.
The one who let me read all of Alice in Wonderland in character, and was transfixed by every word. She’s the one who listened to me belt out rebel Seventies songs I knew all the words to, with complete and utter attention.
Who faithfully took my hand in hers and trusted me to lead her wherever we were going. Across the street, across the world – it didn’t matter.
And the one who jumped with gusto into the big, cold, dark-blue lake, because we told her it was safe. Then jumped again, and again, and again.
She’s the one who trusts me with some of her secrets and, despite her grimace (and even some cursing), listens to what tiny shards of wisdom I can offer.
The one who forgives me on my bad days and applauds me on my good ones.
I have grown to respect this young woman so deeply.
She astounds me with her wit, her intellect, her eyes-wide-open observation of the world around her.
I can hardly believe I played a part in bringing such a beautiful and powerful force into the world. I will miss her delicate smell, her brilliant smile, her love, her hugs. I will love her forever, my baby she’ll be.
Wendy Walters lives in Toronto.