with Karli Larson
The transition from stay-at-home mom to divorced-and-working-full-time mom can be challenging, and sometimes very lonely. Throw in a few cats, an ancient dog and one very brave boyfriend, and life gets downright crazy. Join me as I talk through my thoughts and struggles, my miscalculations and my triumphs. We're in this together, you and I.
When I'm not writing here you can find me over at work on the TisBest Philanthropy blog.
I walk into my bedroom. Sitting on my bed is a short, thin, dark-haired woman. She’s hunched over one of the cats. I have no idea who she is. In the span of several milliseconds, I wonder how she got in, what she wants, and what I should say to her.
“Oh,” is what I say, finally. My daughter swivels on the bed, her fingers still buried in our tortoiseshell kitty’s fur.
“What?” she says.
“You…you just…you get taller every day,” I say.
This is not exactly what I am thinking, but I can’t find the words. Not right then.
She’s just come home from four days in Indiana, without either of her parents. AS IN, MY BABY FLEW ON A PLANE WITHOUT HER MOM OR HER DAD TO CRADLE HER TIGHTLY AS TERRIBLE THINGS HAPPENED, LIKE SCARY HIJACKERS AND DRUNK LECHEROUS BUSINESSMEN AND TURBULENCE AND AT LEAST THREE FIERY CRASHES, ALL WITH STOPOVERS IN LAS VEGAS.
She survived none and all of these things, depending on your point of view.
This year, she and three schoolmates had earned the honor of representing the state of Massachusetts in (deep breath) the Junior Division Global Issues Team Competition of the Future Problem Solvers Program International Conference. (Yeah, I didn’t know what that was before, either.) It’s a long story, but basically, it’s a whole bunch of awesome kids from around the globe coming together to create detailed action plans for some of the world’s lousiest problems and then partying down. Two coaches and a parent chaperone were along for the ride, to make sure none of the fifth-grade Massachusetts team got a fake ID or a tattoo.
“You didn’t get a tattoo, did you?” I check.
“Um, yeeeeeahhhh,” she says. She leans over and licks my arm. She is weird. I don’t know where she gets it.
Four days without her, and she is bigger, broader, brighter, bolder, funnier, louder and more stunning than ever. Or she is not. I am not sure what is going on here. I am feeling very confused. There is a stranger on my bed, petting my cat. Now she is laughing and licking my arm. This is what it is to have a daughter. This is what it is to have a daughter who can board a plane on her own. This is what it is to have a daughter on the verge of becoming a woman, the thing that you have been for a while now, the thing that has gotten old for you, but is exciting and new and uncharted territory for her.
She licks my arm again and reads what I have written, over my shoulder, although she knows I hate when she reads while I am still writing.
“If you write ’seems’, then you have to get rid of ‘Or she is not.’”
“Huh?” I say. I re-read what I have written and unwritten and rewritten.
“See?” she says.
Dang. “You’re RIIIIIGHT,” I say, in a sort of teacher-y voice.
She mimics me with gorgeous green crazy-wide eyes. “‘You’re RIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIGHT!’ That was a weird voice, Mom.”
“Well, I’m just…you know. I’m a cockypants when it comes to my writing.”
“Yeah. You are.”
“So, um,” I continue, “I’m kind of impressed that you just edited me. And kind of terrified. My voice doesn’t know how to handle this moment.”
“Yes. It means your brain will soon overtake the feeble, weakening brain of your mother. BUT NOT YET.”
I do the only mature thing I can, in my defeat. I tickle her.
She laughs, the Tickle Laugh. Ah, THERE she is. Yes. That one. In that laugh. Her. She hasn’t left me, not yet.
She tickles my armpit. “Ew, it’s all wet.”
“Oh, please, like you don’t sweat,” I say.
“Not as much as you.”
“You do too. You get all stinky and sweaty.”
“Gee, thanks,” she replies, wryly.
“You started it,” I say.
“That’s real mature, Mom.” She licks me a third time. “See, I FEED you inspiration.” And: “I love you, Mom.”
That laugh again. Yup, she’s still here. I hope she’s always here, even when she’s in her wherever-there.
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