And as it happens and in spite of myself, I've been doing a lot of thinking about mothers and daughters and loss, no doubt in subconscious preparation for the start of CPE on Monday.
I've talked about this before: after the initial shock of my mother's death, I more or less went on with life. Not my old life, but the one I'd suddenly inherited. I did not dwell on loss or change; those are matters with which adults occupy themselves, and I was seven. I was aware for many years, of course, that I was the only child and then adolescent and then young woman of my acquaintance who did not have a mother, but that was what I knew and I more or less accepted it, moving forward with little curiosity about the woman who had vanished from my life so quickly and so completely.
When I became a mother myself, I was very consciously stunned by the wave of awareness that washed over me. I remember distinctly sitting in my hospital bed one morning when the boys were a couple of days old, staring down at the tiny blonde heads propped on pillows in my arms, and thinking: There was once on this planet someone who loved me like this. I had had no idea that there was such love loose in the universe, and the thought that I had once been its direct object, but for only a brief and barely-remembered period of time, was almost more than I could absorb.
I have been, as a mother, frequently and attentively alert to a sense of gratitude. Not as something to blather on about, and not in times of confusion and despair. But much more of the time than not, in a form of silent awareness. I would glance out int the back yard while three children were constructing something out of nothing, or peer into the sunroom when they were playing a game, and think to myself: You are absolutely enveloped by good fortune. As my children grew, and especially as they passed the ages my younger brother and I had been in 1960, I often thought of my mother and what she had missed. The big events, of course: the recitals and plays, the graduations, the first jobs and, someday, the weddings and babies. But more poignantly, the little moments: all that back yard construction and deconstruction, the sand castles, the late night walks, the hours and hours of reading aloud, the soccer games, the tea parties for cats.
For the past few months, I have longed for my mother as an advisor and counselor, as a source of insight and sagacity. I have depended for most of my life on the support of other girls and women, and have usually had a close circle of female friends, starting with the girls I met when I began boarding school at the age of twelve, but I realized a few weeks ago that, at the moment, the people upon whom I most rely for advice and encouragment are all male. It's an odd situation for me, and I wish my mother were here. Of course, my mother did not live long enough to become the fount of wisdom for whom I long; I have lived nearly twice as long as she did and have far more to share in the way of experience and contemplation thereon than she had the opportunity to gain. But I wish that things were otherwise.
Yesterday the Lovely Daughter and I made the six-and-one-half hour drive home from Chicago. We listened to WICKED, which I have been waiting to share with her -- I knew that as a one-time peformer in and techie for musicals, she would "get" it. And we talked nonstop for the rest of the trip. About seminary and new friends and new dreams (me). About Czech restaurants and roommate challenges and the Gaudi cathedral and senior year and the possibility of future employment related to international study (her). About churches and sermons (me). About Auchswitz (her). I gave her some advice. She gave me some advice. We talked and talked and talked. And talked.
I wish I could be the daughter of a mother.
I LOVE being the mother of a daughter.