I stood in line at Target today with an armful of things I didn’t know I needed until I found them while on a quest to get hair mousse.

In front of me stood a woman with a little girl. I watched them interact.

The woman ran her fingers through the child’s hair and asked her if she’d brushed it that morning. The woman told the girl that something was bad for her brain (screen-time? I didn’t hear) and that they should get some exercise, maybe go for a walk.

I remembered with a pang when my girl was that small and I felt such a rush of longing for her small self. I miss her childhood in a way that I never missed my sons’ younger days. Maybe that’s because the boys were all noise and headlocks and video games and smelly socks and unflushed toilets.

My daughter was dollies and tea parties. She was stickers and markers and notes penned to the “Best Mommy In the Whole World.” She was stuffed animals and “Finding Nemo.” We used to walk around the block in the afternoons and when she was really little, she once insisted on going into a neighbor’s yard where she started to gather their ceramic gnomes.

We did everything together, and not just because she would cry if I left her with a sitter. She loved to swim and she adored the ocean, so we’d go on long strolls down the beach. “Want to go see the sunset?” and she’d always say yes. She’d insist on wearing a swimsuit, even for a nightly stroll when it was too cold for getting wet and she’d get splashed anyway.

For years, I took her to every soccer practice and every soccer game. I sat on the sidelines while she practiced, even when other parents just dropped their kids off. She talked non-stop while we drove from place to place. Her constant chatter was the soundtrack of my life.

When she was very little, she’d come into my bed every night or early every morning. She’d rotate like she was a rotisserie chicken and it drove me absolutely crazy how she could not be still. If she didn’t come into bed, she’d just wake me every ten minutes by standing bedside and saying, “Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom.” until I stirred.

(When was the last time she crawled into bed with me?)

What I’m saying is that we were close.  We were very close. Every night she’d call downstairs, “I’m ready!” and I’d go upstairs and tell her goodnight.

Until one night, she didn’t call me upstairs and I didn’t notice.

She used to watch “Survivor” with me and then one night, I remember saying, “Okay, but only if you’re still and if you don’t talk.” (I so regret those moments I was irritable and short with her. I thought we had forever.)

She never watches television with me anymore, even when I ask.

I miss her.

I miss her blond curls. I miss her hand in mine. I miss her absolute belief in me.

Now, sometimes when I say something, she scrunches her darkened eyebrows at me, conveying her astonishment at my ignorance or . . . whatever. I get that scrunchy-eyebrow look fairly regularly. She is far, so far from me.

I never, ever expected her to drift away. I thought that we would always be close. (Is that crazy?) I don’t even know the moment that the tide carried her away and now she’s a speck out in the sea.

So, she’s growing up, becoming herself by trying on some different personas. (Her current persona has purple hair and wants a septum piercing.) She’s 15. She has to find her way. She will find her way.  (I hope it’s back to me, someday.)


My heart is an empty nest, feathered with memories of a little girl who once adored me.

11 thoughts on “Missing

  1. Oh, yes, that resonates. I remember my son would kiss my cheek every morning when I’d drop him off at school tjrough 6th grade. Then some point it stopped and began a trip around the dark side of the moon. He got back to me at abput 18, and we’re great friends now. Have patience, and keep sending out those radio signals.


  2. She’s still in there. I could have written this when my daughter was 15, still could now she’s 18. But she crawled into bed with me 2 nights ago (my husband is away) and I didn’t tell her to go sleep in her own bed like I would usually do, and I slept better. She’s still in there.


  3. She’ll come back! Once she turns 18 or 19 and has had enough space, she’ll come back and you’ll be closer than ever, but in a different way because you’ll both be adults (albeit one who knows a lot more about the world than the other!). I remember going through this with my mom, and now we’re best friends again. You’re so lucky to have a daughter. There’s something very special about that mother-daughter bond that lasts a lifetime.


  4. Likely she will come back someday, but you never know. The daughter that I was closest to is now the opposite, both literally and figuratively.


  5. Ditto to the support above. You know what this age is all about. You’ve laid the groundwork. I’m sorry it’s so painful but sure, she’ll drift back into your orbit, probably sooner than later.

    But oh my gosh. This is the most exquisitely heartbreaking piece. I was enjoying your description of the mother-daughter scene at the store in the beginning, and admiring how well and simply you showed us that picture, and then boom. Very powerful, of course, but just so beautiful. I loved this.


  6. I hope that given time to grow up, she will return to you, even more herself than she ever was. I cannot even imagine what it must be like to be a fifteen year old at this time in history. But what she will never be able to forget is that her mother was always there for her. You never expected her to be someone or do something or act a certain way just to make you look good. That is RARE. Someday, she will most likely realize that that in itself isn’t the norm. No matter what, you love HER, and she can run and she can hide, but she can’t get away from that. And I doubt very much that she wants to.


  7. Oh yeah, she will return to you. Three daughters, 29, 25, 21. All three of them entered into that tunnel at the same basic age and were there until they were properly differentiated. Interestingly, the closer you are the harder that separation is for them to achieve. They have to be pretty damn bitchy and mean to pull it off. So just wait. Good times are coming back.


  8. Hope you are doing ok. I think she was two when I started reading your blog, on the other host. Sorry it’s a hard stage right now. Hope you are finding some good books to take a break with. Hope your mother is ok. Sounds like you have a lot going on.


  9. Most mothers could have written this very post when their daughters were 15. Mine waited till she was 16-17 to start giving me those God-you’re-an-idiot looks. She’s 22 now and I still get them every once in a great while. Its painful but it doesn’t last. Hang in there.


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