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.