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When my oldest daughter was a toddler she would resist going to bed with might and main, and when I finally tucked her in, well past her bedtime, she would collapse into a marathon of tragic tears.
“But I haven’t had enough of you,” she would sob.
It broke my heart to see her so sad. I was a self-employed single mom at the time and I was exhausted.
“You’ll see more of me tomorrow,” I would soothe. “It’ll be okay. You’ll see.” Despite my calm words I hadn’t had enough of her either, but I needed to roam alone around our little home and absorb the solace of a quiet house.
“But I want more of you NOW,” she would protest.
As the years rolled on, the tears stopped flowing, and we both became swept up in the rhythm of life. My daughter started school and I fell in love. She started piano lessons and I remarried. She got braces; I made more babies.
One day I woke up and realized, with a shock, that the little girl I had cosseted and cared for was leaving the next day to start university in a distant town.
How was it possible that this beautiful child I had borne a heartbeat ago had grown up so quickly? How had those precious years spun themselves into the fragile silk of memory? I was melancholic and morose that day and as the evening sped into night I felt abandoned and bereft. My baby was leaving me.
That night, after she retired to her room, I stared sadly at the ceiling and thought of all the little adventures we had shared together, all the adventures that were no longer possibilities. I climbed the stairs and knocked on her bedroom door.
“Come in,” she said. I opened the door and peeked in. Her suitcases were packed and sitting at the end of her bed, and her reading lamp cast a gentle glow on her youthful, hopeful face.
I burst into tears.
“MOM!” she gasped. “What’s wrong?”
I crossed the room and crawled into bed beside her.
“I haven’t had enough of you,” I sobbed.
She hugged me fiercely and started to cry too.
“It’ll be okay,” she soothed through her tears. “You’ll see.”
I didn’t see. But she had things to do that didn’t involve me. And she needed a little time to roam around the world and absorb the adventure of a waiting universe. I had been adventurous too, once, and I had travelled my world meeting new people and trying new things.
How does it happen that we lose our taste for the unexpected in life, that we stop daring, dreaming, and driving ourselves onto a new horizon? How had I become so locked into a life of staid regularity?
The next morning, she left home to study hard and make me proud. After four years of Canadian education, years in which my husband died and my other children grew, my daughter announced that she was moving to England to pursue a master’s degree in journalism.
“But, that’s SO FAR AWAY!” I moaned.
“It’ll be okay, Mom,” she said. I wasn’t so sure.
I had embarked upon an education of my own, one that required me to reinvent myself as the widowed mother of two young children. It was lonely and difficult, and I had to redefine my life in the light of my own hopes and dreams. Did I even have any of those any more? Was anything ever going to be okay again?
My daughter carried on, finished her education and landed a wonderful job in England.
She is happy and I’ve been glad that she has found her wings.
Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that I still might have wings of my own. My daughter has blazed a trail of adventure and certainty for herself, a trail I had travelled myself so many years ago. Maybe that trail was still out there for me too, waiting for me to step back aboard.
The other day I Skyped my big little girl in great excitement.
“I’m going trekking in Nepal in September!” I announced. It was something I had always wanted to do and a plan had fallen together for me out of the blue.
“You’re WHAT?!” she gasped.
“Nepal,” I said, helpfully.
“Nepal,” she said flatly.
“Yes, Nepal,” I said firmly. It occurred to me that she might think mothers shouldn’t go trekking in Nepal.
“M-o-o-o-m?” she asked finally, gently even. I braced myself.
“Yes, sweetie?” I said.
“Can I come with you?”
I gasped in delight.
Years ago, I never could have imagined a shared adventure with my daughter and all the sadness that had crystallized in tears wrought by the pain of separation dissolved in that one perfect moment.
It was all so daring and perfect, and it made me realize yet again how powerful the circle of life really is – nothing but beginnings, endings and transitions to another fresh start. I’m deliriously eager now for whatever shows up next in my bumpy discovery of the life I’m leading; the adventure is magical.
We haven’t had enough indeed.
Susan Crossman lives in Oakville, Ont. and writes at shadesofteal.com.