Thursday, October 23, 2008

Missing Anna

This is dedicated to my friend Joanne, who has sent her own beautiful daughter out into the world. I‘m sure she‘s feeling a lot like I do right now.

The afternoon sun was shining on her hair through the back door window, making her curls look all shiny and coppery. She stood there with her purse over her shoulder, holding her keys in one hand and the doorknob in the other. As she leaned forward and kissed me on my cheek, she said “ ’Bye. I love you.” “I love you, too,” I told her. “Be careful and call me when you get there.” We had stood in this same spot and spoken these same words so many times before. Only this time, she wasn’t meeting Lauren at Starbucks or going to hang out with Chloe; she wasn’t running the Mama-forgot-a-bunch-of-stuff-at-the-grocery-store errand or picking up supper for the three of us. This time, she was headed back after her first weekend home from college.

I followed her out of the door and stood on the top step as she walked to her car, threw her purse in the passenger seat and got in. The glare on the windshield kept me from seeing clearly, but I knew all of the little things she’d do to get ready for a road trip. She’d start the engine to get the air conditioner going, then decide if she was going to listen to XM radio, her iPod, or the CD player. When the decision was made, she’d push the appropriate buttons or turn the right knobs and queue up her music. She’d put on her sunglasses, buckle her seat belt and adjust her mirrors. If her daddy had been the last one to drive her car, she’d let out a little snort and say something caustic about him “messin’ with her seat and mirrors!” Then she’d shift into reverse and be on her way.

After a minute or two, she was all set. With a little wave and a half-smile, she was backing out of the drive way and heading down the road, the road that was taking her away from me. As I stood watching her car get smaller and smaller, I opened the picture book in my heart and watched my little girl grow up. There she was on the day we brought her home from the hospital, surely the most beautiful baby in the world, lying there on the new quilt her grandmother had made for her. I saw the toddler with the soft, golden curls and a red pacifier in her mouth that proclaimed, “I love Mommy.” And there, smiling back at me was the gangly 10yr old, the one with crooked teeth, 2 long braids that couldn’t quite contain her wildly curly hair, and glasses that were much too big for her face. (What were we thinking?!) I saw her grow from an awkward teenager with braces to a lovely young woman with a beautiful smile.

It had all happened too fast and I needed more time - more time to be a better mother. I wanted to go back and say, “Yes,” every time I had said, “No,” because I was tired or busy. I wanted to take that quilting class with her even though “quilting wasn’t really my thing.” I wanted to read Splishy Splashy Day one more time and I wanted to watch her as she watched The Little Mermaid over and over, again and again. And again. I wanted to play games and bake cookies and draw on the sidewalk and play dress up. I wanted a do-over as much as I had ever wanted anything in my life. Hoping very much that she had heard more of the “yes’s“ and less of the “no‘s,” I turned and walked back into the house.

I stood there, in our spot, and looked around the kitchen. There was Herman, Anna’s big white cat, still sleeping in the ugly green computer chair ( a yard sale find that was going to find its way to the dump very soon.) Our magnet collection was still scattered across the refrigerator and Anna’s funny notes were still written on the chalk board over the pantry. The only sounds were the rickety-click of the ceiling fan and the hum of the appliances. Everything seemed the same as it had 10 minutes earlier. But it wasn‘t. It was different. Very different. It was as if the room knew that, this time, our lives really had changed forever. There was a hint of melancholy in the air - a longing for the good old days when the three of us were here together almost every day. It wasn't the same as the raw, visceral grief that I felt last year when she went away. This was a softer, more mellow sadness.

Imagine passing down your great-grandmother’s ring to your daughter, a treasured family heirloom that you’ve worn on the third finger of your right hand every single day for over thirty years. You know it’s time to let it go and you’re thrilled to carry on the tradition. It makes you happy to see how pretty it looks on her hand and to know that she loves it as much as you do. You’d never dream of taking it back, but you really, really miss the feel of it on your finger; your hand feels empty without it. Well, I’ve given my treasure to the world. I know it’s time to let her go and I’m excited to carry on the tradition set by countless mothers before me. It’s a life I want her to have and I’d never hold her back, but I really, really miss the familiar feel of her being here with me.

If you ask her what it is I miss so much, she’ll probably say that I miss my errand girl and computer geek. And she’ll most likely tell you that I hate not knowing where she is and what she’s doing every minute of every day so that I can make sure she’s safe and happy. She’ll probably know that I miss talking to her about everything - reading, writing, movies, pets, family, friends, God, love, marriage, fashion food, and sometimes, even sex. Everything. She might know that I miss watching Psych with her; that I won’t watch it without her because it’s just not the same unless she‘s here laughing as hard as I am.

Yes, she could tell you all of that and she would be right. But I don’t think she knows how much I miss the little things. Things like looking out of the kitchen window and seeing her car parked in its spot. Or seeing her toothbrush in the glass on the bathroom counter. She might not know that I miss being a happy third-wheel when she and her daddy are discussing music or baseball or NCIS; or hearing them howl with laughter at some stand-up comic that I just don’t get. I don’t think she knows how much I love her in the mornings, a bit grumpy with wild hair and wilder pajamas. I miss hearing her call "Heeeerrmeeee,” her cat, and I miss the way he loves her. I miss those times when we’re not talking, when we’re just quietly together in the house. I even miss the obnoxious ringtone of her cell phone, because when I hear it ring, I know she’s home.

I miss how, without notice, the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Like it does when, in the middle of one of our everyday talks about everyday things, she turns to me and says, “You’re my best friend.” How sometimes she seems to read my mind and say out loud the very thing I’ve been thinking. Or how, in the middle of an ordinary supper out, I look across a candlelit table and am absolutely gob-smacked by what a beautiful young woman she’s become. (How can this be my child?!) But, perhaps the best extraordinary ordinary moment of all comes at the end of the day, when she lightly kisses my cheek and says, “G’night, Mama. I love you.”

I know that it’s time for her to go and develop her grown-up muscles. I know that it’s time for her to learn to handle life’s little speed bumps on her own and that I need to become more of an encourager and less of a do-er. I know that it’s right for parts of her life to be totally separate from mine; that our hips need to be un-joined and that I really don’t need to know “where she is and what she’s doing every minute of every day so I can make sure she’s safe and happy.” In my heart, I know that she will always, always be my sweet baby girl, but it’s time now for my treasured heirloom to sparkle on the hand of the world.

Yep, I know all of this. But I also know that I’m missing Anna.

There have been several weekends home since that first one. And every time she leaves to go back, I still feel that little pinch around my heart.


Anonymous said...

You really have got to stop being so good. And making me cry.

JulyG319 said...

Okay, I've decided that no matter how tired, frustrated or sick I AM going to enjoy every moment I have left with my Anna until she leaves home.
I'm going now before I become a blubbering mess...
Love ya!

Anonymous said...

thank you so much for dedication to me; you write so beautifully and you put into words exactly how I feel too...I am sitting here crying, as I am reading, knowing you have captured my emotions so perfectly......

and that is why I love ya, my friend......xoxo


Buggie_Girl said...

I tried to respond earlier, but couldn't get logged in. I'm a blogging dummy still.

I have to say that I totally envy your relationship with Anna. I have never been that close to my mom... and I'll never have a daughter to share with. I do feel guilty for wanting to push the boys out and change the locks... we used to be closer, and they weren't such dummies as they are now. Prayers that you and Anna ALWAYS share such a special bond... Susan (*"*)

roxie said...

I know, Bee how you feel. Although most of my kids have moved close to me. The house can still feel empty. I miss the pitter patter of little feet. But, I do have the grandkids and that too is a joy..hugs, roxie

barb said...

WOW!!! Change the you to sister and the Anna to niece and it is their story albeit a bit older. I wore my grandmomma's wedding ring for years and when niece turned 21 that ring was my gift to her.......I will never forget the look on her face.

I must also say when I see a blog that is quite long I always have trouble getting to the end and usually don't your writing Bee keeps me there with tissue in hand....thanks darlin.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful expression of a mother's love!! You are a very special lady indeed!!

Lee_sa_d (Lisa)

Anonymous said...

You write in a way that completely draws the reader in to your mind and heart. Thank you for sharing that with us.

Chris said...

Dear Bee,

I truly love every post you write! But this one is so special! Daughters are truly a gift to be enjoyed.

Amazing that we both wrote about our daughters today, isn' it? We are truly blessed!

Hugs, Chris

p.s. Thanks for your sweet comments at both Refined & Redeemed.

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