I‘ve felt her gradually slipping away, this bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh. Slipping like her silken hair through my fingers while I tried to make pony tails of her downy baby tresses. It doesn’t feel like that long ago that her hand filled the space in my grasp like a peach-fuzzed puzzle piece. The hand (whose sting I still feel on my cheek) had once cupped my face while she told me a story that made no-and-perfect-sense. It seems like mere minutes since she snuggled next to me on the frilly canopy bed she’d begged Santa for, and matched me word for word as I read the stories she’d memorized long ago. I think if I blink once or twice, there she’ll be struggling into her Power Puff Girls backpack waiting for me to drive car pool.
Where has that girl gone? Where has she taken the graceful little ballerina whose tutus are still stored in boxes in the top of her closet? The one who promised she’d love me forever, but would marry her daddy.
It wasn’t her daddy, whose tattooed arm coiled around her bare shoulder, flipping me off as he maneuvered himself between her and me. She’s leaving, and I don’t want to admit how long ago I lost her. She’s seventeen and hard in a way I could never have imagined when she was a sassy seven or temperamental twelve. She’s angry….so angry, and why haven’t I seen that coming before now? I knew we argued, no, fought. Okay, we fought loud and long, but all my friends talked about conflict with their teenage daughters, didn’t they?
Yet, there were also days when she still called me mommy, smiled prettily when asking for gas money. There were even times we’d cry through a chick flick, downing Dr. Pepper and powdered donuts. She’d inherited my freckles, my quick temper, my sense of humor and my preference for men who weren’t good for me. I thought I knew her better than anyone on the planet. I wonder if I really know her at all.
I thought she’d be my girl forever, circling my world like a satellite in constant orbit held firm by a maternal gravity.
If I’m honest though, a part of me has always known this day would come.
I stand at the window through the dark night, hoping every set of headlights is the pair that leads her home. I stand till the sun rises over the trees we planted the year she was born. I stand until I can’t stand it anymore, and slip to the floor, cradling the last tennis shoe she’d kicked off in the living room that no longer echoes with her music.