I took last week off - as much as a person with four kids can take the week off. Who am I kidding? I didn't have a lick of spare time and worked like a fiend on everything imaginable - except this column. My oldest child and only daughter celebrated her eighteenth birthday last week, which gives you a glimpse into what I was doing when I was doing everything except writing.
It's all okay, because I have something very special for this space. It's waited years to go public. Now, it's time.
I put the words below to paper more than a handful of years ago, when 18 seemed an infinity away. I didn't publish this then because it was a personal piece that touched on slivers of adolescence, which we all know is an extremely private and easily embarrassing period.
So I held onto it, waiting for just the right time. I believe it's arrived. The things we talked about when my daughter was 10 have morphed from embarrassing into long-ago memories. She is no longer an adolescent, but an adult. Despite the time change, I still love cozying up with my baby girl and a warm blanket to watch whatever she wants on a Saturday afternoon.
On Saturday afternoons we curl up on my bed and watch movies on the SciFi channel. Aliens invade the Earth. A giant octopus terrorizes a seaport. A monstrous storm threatens the planet. It doesn't matter what we're watching, really. It's our time together to kick back and talk.
She is growing up too quickly, and I know our Saturday dates will not last forever. At some point, her social calendar will be too full to spend a Saturday afternoon with Mom. But, for now, I am still an okay companion. For now, I still hold the answers to her questions - most of them at least.
We talk quietly during commercials, and sometimes into the show.
How can you tell if a boy likes you? Will I buy her some deodorant for gym class? How old was I when I had my first boyfriend? Why do some kids kiss at school? Can she shave her legs? When did I meet Dad? How should she wear her hair for picture day?
Too often, things like piano lessons, soccer practice, and little brothers fill the rest of our week. There isn't always time to stop and answer the questions that need answering - or to ask them, for that matter. To top it off, her bedroom door is closed more often these days. She wants to be alone - with her music, her journals, her thoughts. I knock before entering, because I know that I should. She is growing up.
In some ways, though, she is still a little girl - viewing the world through little eyes of innocence. More often than not, her pieces of artwork feature a smiling, golden sun in the top left corner of the page. It is good to know that she sees the world as a bright place.
She may be behind her bedroom door, but I can hear her - singing - coming from within. Her voice is beautiful, and I wonder what will happen with it. Where else will she sing? Like her, I too have many questions.
Last summer she made her first quilt. She wanted it extra thick and used double batting to give it a fluffy appearance. We snuggle under it on Saturdays while watching SciFi. Today she brought a notebook to movie hour, and has spent most of the afternoon writing. She is working on a play, but didn't offer details. At one point she showed me the notebook's cover where she'd written the word "Private" in big black letters.
I am a writer and quilter, but more and more, her things are becoming her own, not to be shared with me. This is expected, of course. In the big picture, it is even desired. Even so, it is one of those mothering moments I never anticipated while rocking her to sleep a decade ago.
We snuggle under her quilt, my daughter and I, feeling a sense of oneness and satisfaction at just being together. For now, this is enough for both of us and I am grateful. I glance over and see that she has fallen asleep amidst the attack of alien spaceships on the TV. For the moment, she has put her questions to rest. For the moment she is my baby girl, asleep at my side. For the moment, that is enough. It is more than enough.
Eight years later, it still is. I think it always will be.