insider

This will come as a surprise to some of you faithful readers.

I am an introvert.

This is hard for some people to reconcile with the fact that I am often the one hosting.

I can’t look you in the eye. I am rarely a hugger. My family doesn’t hear me say I love them enough. That wasn’t the way it was in my family growing up. Would I be different if it was? Maybe, maybe not.

Even though I don’t say it, my friends mean the world to me. And feeding them, gathering them near, is how I show it. It is work – not my natural habitat. Sometimes it freaks me out, but it is always worth it.

Tomorrow is my birthday. Leos like birthdays (my husband notwithstanding – his birthday is today and how we knew it was meant to be). 30 friends are coming over tomorrow, which may well be the biggest group I’ve cooked for. I experienced a moment of panic yesterday – will I have enough food? Drink? What the hell was I thinking?

Then I let it go. One of the things I like about parties is the organic flow, each unique and unknown. But the best part is having my people around me. I love listening to them, hearing what’s new, laughing and even sometimes hugging. Sure, I will need to escape for some peace once in a while (tending the grill is good for that). Friends new and old will mingle and meet and bring me out from the inside.

As one of these friends put it recently, I’m a little broken. We all are. And when I have friends over, all our little broken pieces fit together.

And happy birthday to The Geek. Love you.

Last  year's birthday garden party.

Last year’s birthday garden party.

 

bonjour

Oh, hey there. I bet you’re wondering if I stayed in Paris.

First day happy hour from our balcony

First day happy hour from our balcony

I’ve been trying to write about my trip, but I couldn’t. Couldn’t find the right words or make it make sense in my head. I was still processing. It still seemed surreal to me that it actually happened. People would ask about it and of course I’d say it was fantastic,  because it was. But that doesn’t really do it justice. And I could just recount all the things we did day by day, but that’s not right, either. It was so much more than that.

We did all the things I wrote about before I left. We visited Père Lachaise Cemetery, led accidentally by the quirky Rafael. I enjoyed many delicious Aperol Spritzes and champagne at sidewalk cafes. We spent some hours wandering the Vanves flea market, collecting a few little treasures. We walked, oh how we walked. Made good use of the fabulous Metro system, which is like magic – you go in one door and pop out another. Ate some delicious food and some average food. Took advantage of the kindness of strangers, who invited us into their home based only on the recommendation of a mutual friend. We saw many old things and precious art in museums, took a boat tour in the evening light on the Seine. I bought shoes speaking only French.

All these things we did and places we saw were amazing, of course. It’s Paris, for god’s sake. But they weren’t my favorite part of the trip.

I have two stories I tell people when they ask. The first happened when Fred and I took the Eurostar to London for the day. We were following the most excellent map plotted for us by Madame Professor, and found ourselves wandering through Parliament Square. We’d stopped next to a bus map next to the Parliament building, trying to find a pub. I hear a voice behind me asking if we need directions. I turn to find an elderly lady wearing a turquoise suit, thick black stockings and what I believe they call “trainers” there – big white tennis shoes. She’s carrying a ratty black nylon briefcase and a cane.  I tell her we are looking for this pub and she says in a very British accent that she doesn’t know where THAT pub is but if we continue on the road we’ll come to others. Then she turns to leave.

Suddenly she turns back to us and asks if we’d “like a private tour of the House of Lords”. Now, really, I have no idea what that is, except it’s in the rather imposing looking building next to us. Fred, I find out later, didn’t hear her say this and is rather befuddled when I agree and turn to follow her. He’s thinking it’s a racket, kind of like Rafael in the cemetery and she will demand money from us at some point. I’m thinking either she’s a bit mental and this is her daily gig, messing with unsuspecting tourists, OR she’s some sort of retired secretary who used to work there. Either way, I figure we’ll find out soon enough since that building is guarded up the wazoo.

We approach security at the entry, the first test. I nearly fall over when we get through. Once inside, more guards greet our mysterious guide, they take our photos, put our bags through x-ray, and give us visitor badges! I shit you not!

So, it appears she’s legit, whoever she is. By now we are following her through a very old, posh building and I am TERRIFIED I will trip over her cane and kill her. We have to go up a flight of stairs! She says there’s no vote today but we can go in the room where they vote, full of big red leather chairs and hanging microphones. We go into a big library, where a distinguished-looking man says hello to her and she tells us that she used to mentor him. Hmm. Out we go, through a door marked Peers Only, and a security guard says “G’day, milady” and bells start to go off in my head. Hello, Downton Abbey! You don’t call just anyone milady, or go through a Peers Only door. I ask what her name is and she says “Lady Sharples” (though, funnily, she told Fred her name was Pamela). Seriously! She wouldn’t let me take her photo, sadly. And on the way out, I saw the label above her coat hook – “Baroness Sharples”! We hightailed it to a pub to be amazed at ourselves and google Lady Sharples – turns out she is quite a lady, married to a former governor of Bermuda who was assassinated, friends with the Queen Mum, beat up bike riders with her handbag…Lady Sharples, if you ever happen to see this, please know that you made our day trip to London quite fabulous. We won’t soon forget it.

post-Baroness celebrating

post-Baroness celebrating

Fred and I were on a high from that tour for a good long time – you just can’t make stuff like that up. THAT is the kind of thing that sticks with a person – not so much the museums or other tourist must-do’s. Sure, those things are great, but everyone can do that. What sticks with me about Paris especially is all the little bits. The way the light is, the architecture and age that is everywhere you look, the style and class of the people. Little moments in time, riding the Metro without having to look at a map, finding my way from the airport to the apartment, ordering in French, walking through our neighborhood like a local – all those little things I can gather up into a little ball of Paris. Feeling the rhythm of a place that is foreign but feels like home.

Ah, yes, the second story. You may recall we were going to Disneyland Paris. (By the way, unless you have small children and have no hope of ever seeing the REAL Disneyland, do not do this. You will be sorely disappointed.) Fred and I were waiting on a bench, watching the people stream by. Eventually, a small boy, perhaps 3 or 4, wearing glasses and a red baseball hat, walks past. He’s holding his dad’s hand and randomly touching things, the way little kids do. He touches Fred’s shoe as his leg is crossed. He passes me by, inches away. Then when he’s maybe 2 feet from me, he turns back to face me, looking directly at me, and very slowly and deliberately, flips me off. Then he calmly turns and walks off. We looked for that kid the rest of that day – I wanted his photo so bad.

You can’t make THAT stuff up either. Vive la France.

 

à bientôt

This is my last post as the person I’ve been for nearly 48 years.

On Tuesday, I will get the first stamp in my passport and fly across the ocean. I will land for 50 minutes in Iceland (which is a lot farther than I thought) and then I will fly to Paris.

I took French for all 4 years in high school. I even won an award at graduation, Best French Student or some such. Granted, there were only 3 of us in 4th year French. I always thought I’d make it to France before this ripe, old age, but the exchange student thing didn’t happen and after college, when we had the money and time, it didn’t occur to us as a possibility. I have no earthly idea why.

Then kids and business ownership came along and it really became a pipe dream, something other people did.  And then in January I got a text from Fred & Ethel saying they wanted me to go with them to Paris to celebrate Ethel’s 50th. They bought a ticket and got an apartment in the Marais. And I commenced Intensive Paris Planning.

I have a Paris Pinterest board. I made a Google map coded with sites and vetted restaurants. I downloaded apps. I practiced my very rusty French. I annoyed a lot of people (except maybe Kate, my planning sidekick) with my enthusiasm.

Because this is a big deal. Realistically, it may be my only chance to cross the pond. I surely hope not, but I’m going like it is. Which is why Fred and I are taking the train to London for one day, and why I considered taking the train to Frankfurt to see friends, even though it would mean one day less in Paris.

I will sit in many sidewalk cafes and annoy waiters with my bad French. I will enjoy many glasses of wine and cafe crème, tradition baguette, chocolat, Lillet. We will cruise the Seine to celebrate a milestone birthday and go on a private food tour. We will sit on our apartment balcony on the 6th floor and watch the world go by. We will visit a magical chateau built for kings and one built  by a mouse. I will figure out how to get from CDG to Le Marais via train with a suitcase and jetlag. I will enjoy champagne and try snails with my boy friend’s boyfriend. I will search for treasures in the flea markets.

These things will seep into me, filling the cracks made from missing something you didn’t know you needed, or that you knew you needed but had given up on ever finding. Fresh eyes and new perspective based on someone else’s reality.

I will try not to stand under le Tour Eiffel spinning in circles making puppy dog eyes. And big smooches to The Geek for letting me go and dealing with the home front by himself for ten days. I will miss you hard.

Soon to be daily view.

Soon to be daily view.

 

 

 

 

 

place of light

Oh, people.

Been riding the struggle bus lately, as the daughter of a friend says.

The Girl Child, a junior who will be 17 on Sunday, is bound and determined to test the limits of both academic requirements and my sanity. I know I’ve mentioned her woes before. I hoped her habits of procrastination and avoidance were a passing fad; not so much, it seems. She has once again dug herself a giant pit, and rather than dig herself out of it, appears to be adding on rooms to it.

I’ve tried to explain she has no time left for these shenanigans if college is part of her plans, as she claims it is. Then she’ll get back on track briefly, only to derail again in spectacular fashion, as is currently the case. She has 13 days before a paper on Moby Dick is due, a project her class has been working on for a couple months, and on which she NEEDS to do well. Yesterday, she listened through Chapter 7. And took some notes. That is the extent of her work on it so far.

Yes, it is a ridiculously hard book, probably far above her pay grade. But it is still her assignment, no matter how much she hates it. I have tried to encourage and motivate without success. Well-meaning people suggest it is not my problem, that I should let the chips fall where they may. Been there, done that. Those chips are just laying around her in a big ol’ pile in every direction and they don’t prevent new ones from falling.

It’s the time factor that is really making me crazy. Whether or not she goes to college is not what I really worry about – what I worry about is that she will not have the choice because she will not qualify. As I’ve tried to explain to her, and at which point she will usually reply with something like “you went to college, look where it got you”. True, we aren’t raking in the big bucks with fantastic careers, but I wouldn’t have gotten this menial job without a college degree, and without that SHE wouldn’t have this tiny little roof over her head. Our success or lack thereof is due more to lack of ambition, not college degrees. Something perhaps we have passed on to her.

In my secret heart among the fear and worry and love, I wonder where we screwed up. I’m pretty sure it was in 7th grade. Because obviously the parents of successful kids are doing something that we are not. Right? Isn’t that what everyone secretly thinks, when you look at a kid who succeeds or one who fails? Clearly it’s all due to the parents. She’s on spring break, and yesterday I took her phone and the remote controls so that she would have no distractions. She said she had a plan to get through the book by Saturday – listen 4 hours a day. She did 2 hours yesterday, and then went running, which turned into dinner and then a party – despite much arguing against this plan from us. It was a turning point for me. I left her phone and remotes out when I left today. Am I a bad parent for only caring so much? I can’t say – I only know I reached my limit.

Sigh. I don’t say all this to garner sympathy or encouragement. I say it to get it out of my freaking head. It can’t stay there anymore.

Beyond that limit and the line of the dark place I sometimes go, there are bright spots. There has to be, or what else is there. Why stick around and keep doing this?

The biggest shiny thing I have to wrap myself in now is a trip to freaking Paris in less than two months. Going with friends to celebrate a milestone birthday (not mine). It would be even sweeter if The Geek could come, but that is not possible this time – someone has to run the bar.

So when things get sticky or I feel a little lost, I look at my Google Paris map, carefully plotted with sites to see and places to eat and drink. There will be a day trip to London. A trip to a chateau and maybe some bikes. Disneyland, even (don’t hate). There will be wandering and wondering, a food tour, a dinner cruise, wine at a sidewalk cafe. Museums. la Tour Eiffel. There will be long-unused French words. There will be a little bit of magic and light and places unknown that will become known.

And when I return, it will be summer vacation. There will be SAT prep, perhaps a job or volunteer gig, hopefully chores. Maybe a math class for the Boy. Maybe another ride on the struggle bus.

But I’ll always have Paris.

bitter & sweet

Long time visitors to this humble blog may recall a post from 2 Thanksgivings ago in which I wrote about The Geek’s mom and her struggle with Alzheimer’s. Considering the state of things at that time, I’m surprised it’s taken this long to get here, but here we are.

Things have gone downhill, as we knew they would. She no longer drives. She is afraid to go to bingo because she thinks she won’t remember the numbers. Bookwork that she has done for over 25 years mystifies her. She will mention the same thing to you 5 times in 2 hours, and have no idea that she has done that. You will also have to tell her the same thing 5 times in 2 hours, because she won’t remember the first 4 times.

She knows us though. And so it’s time for me to write this, the things that I remember, so that she can read it when she forgets.

Her name is Darlyne, but everyone, even her son,  calls her Dar. Her husband (and The Geek’s dad) is named Gary – they are known by all as Gar and Dar.

The first time I met her, in 1987,  she was worried about dinner. At the time I was a vegetarian. I think she’d made pasta of some sort. We had a lovely time and I think I passed muster – I’m still here.

My husband is an only child, and his mother was quite pleased to get a daughter in the bargain when we got married. She loves to pet my hair and hug me, which I allow despite coming from a family of non-huggers. Now she pets the Girl Child, too.

When we got engaged, we picked up the ring on the same day as her birthday dinner at Benihana. I flashed the ring and I think it was the best birthday present ever. I was worried about the whole wedding thing – who was going to pay for this shindig? His parents to the rescue, the first of MANY times that would happen. She was so pleased to get to invite all the friends whose offsprings’ weddings she had gone to.

For their 35th wedding anniversary, we threw a surprise dinner for them at the Pink Door. My friend Katie designed lovely invitations, one of which is now framed and hangs in their house.

When I was pregnant with our first child, we told them that we had decided on guardians. Our friends Margo and Nicole lived in town at the time and we were close. The fact that they were a gay couple didn’t even faze my in-laws. They trust our judgement, they said. I was so proud of them for that. Not everyone’s parents would have agreed.

Our friend Robert, who has his own struggles with his family, has always been accepted into ours. He came with us for Christmas a couple times, the most recent two years ago. Dar was so pleased to see him and welcome him.

Bobby in the snow

Bobby in the snow

Dar enjoys meeting and talking to people of all kinds. It generally takes her at least an hour to leave a place after first announcing that she is leaving. You need to plan ahead for this.

She puts up with my complete and utter lack of housekeeping skills and/or interest. Never a criticizing word, and considering that she irons EVERYTHING, this is quite something. I think she must know that my talents lie elsewhere.

Gar & Dar enjoy a cocktail. It’s often the first thing they will ask if you come to visit, a trait I appreciate. After a few cocktails, you will get to hear good stories, sometimes involving Agnes and her friend. I am pretty sure these ladies do not exist but the stories are good nonetheless.

They’ve always enjoyed meeting all of our friends and often ask about them. Dar is famous for sending birthday cards and anniversary cards. The remembering part is trickier now. Just today she asked for my parents’ address – to send them an anniversary card, I’m sure.

The Rosens, 1997. Allie's first dinner party.

The Rosens, 1987. Allie’s first dinner party.

Dar is infamous for taking photos at family gatherings. People grumble and she says “you’ll thank me someday”. Someday soon, no doubt.

Her generosity (and Gar’s) are off the charts. I can’t tell you the number of times they have helped us out, no questions asked, with time and money, especially when it comes to running the bar. We literally could not do it without them. There is nothing they would not do for us, and it is humbling. I am pretty sure we do not deserve it.

It’s a struggle, this. For Dar, but also Gar. We can’t fix it. Nothing makes it better. The memories are sweet, but bitter when you can’t quite reach them anymore. So we will do it for her.

Much love to Gar and Dar.

Our best employees.

Our best employees.

untitled

One of the reasons I enjoy new things and places so much is because they give a new perspective, sometimes a badly needed jolt. I find myself in desperate need of that lately.

When there are things in your life that maybe aren’t so great, the good little things become bigger and more important.  You get so used to holding onto those things that you can’t break out of whatever your routine is for maintaining your sanity. It would take too long to take a bigger gulp and might even throw off the whole works.

But I am tired of that. I wonder why the heck I can’t break out of the every day rut of my own making. There are things I want to DO, yet I don’t.

I come to work, the same job for nearly 25 years. I sit in my office, with the same view outside and inside. I think, I should do this or I should do that, but I don’t do any of those things. I mindlessly look at the internet. (And thank god for my friends I chat with online – you have no idea how I need that.) I do nothing productive, and then wonder later where the time went, why I was so foolish.

At home, I do the bare minimum, and sometimes not even that. Dishes sit overnight at least, we use hand towels for showers. I read and sometimes watch my stories. Sometimes cook something. I DON’T do any of my crafty things. I don’t redo the Boy’s bedroom. I don’t sort through the endless piles of crap. I am in Christmas denial.

People will say “but the parties!”. Yes, I do those. At this point I can do that on auto-pilot. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy it. But it doesn’t count.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I can’t bust out of this rut. Why I am letting so much time slide by, wasted. If I am honest, I would say it’s because the things that aren’t so great are taking up too much of my time and energy. I have none left for new things. I NEED that mindless time. I need to be numb.

But then it becomes a vicious circle, doesn’t it. At some point, if I am serious about change, I just have to take a very deep breath and brace myself, throw myself off these tired tracks. Let go of the things I worry about that I can’t fix. Check out the view from a different window, find a different drum beat.

Defibrillate.

 

 

 

tiny

This year is nearly over. I am ready for it to end. Aside from my lovely trip to Savannah and the August dinner party, this year has nothing to recommend it. It’s been full of strife, frustration, uncertainty and sadness. In the beginning, it’s easy to deal with less than stellar conditions in your life, because things usually balance out. To have it last for so long takes a toll.

You begin to look not for big nuggets of goodness or luck because evidently there aren’t any. You simply expect things will not go your way for the foreseeable future. It’s exhausting.

But since I am generally a glass-half-full person, I keep trying to tell myself it could be worse. And have no doubt, that is very true. We are healthy. I have a roof over my head.

But if that’s as good as things get, a person has to begin to find the goodness in the smaller things. Because there has to be a reason to keep plodding through this muck.

And so I’ve started a little list in my head that gives me hope or happiness in the midst of not-so-great.

Coffee. With milk and sugar. Or a cappuccino, on the dry side with sugar and cinnamon.

A weekend day with no plans. Sunny or rainy, but wide open with possibility even if I do nothing.

Jeans that fit just right.

My tattoos.

A well-made cocktail. Usually in a martini glass. Making them for other people is sometimes better than making them for myself. Must use high-quality booze and accoutrements.

Dinner parties. I don’t even mind the cleaning. It’s about planning the menu, inviting, cooking, conversation. Nourishing people’s bodies and souls. It’s selfish of me, because I get more out of it than any guest does.

Fire on a windy, rainy winter night. Preferably with a cocktail and candles.

A perfect set of words. Current favorites:

“Constant use had not worn ragged the fabric of their friendship”.

Dorothy Parker

“I cannot fix on the hour, or the spot, or the look or the words, which laid the foundation. It is too long ago. I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun”.

Jane Austen

Anything by e.e. cummings. The man is magic.

Crispness. Of a perfect french fry. Creme brulee topping. A fall day when leaves are changing and bright. A winter day after snow. Fresh sheets. A chocolate chip cookie, buttery crisp. A retort.

Jack. The one in my family who asks nothing but food and a walk. His heart is so wide.

Serendipity. The color and texture that became just right after the 5th layer. The mistake that led to the perfect combination. Being in the right spot to see an old friend.

No laundry pile.

When my son says thank you for making his lunch.

Glen Hansard’s voice.

Friends who let me be snarky and know exactly what I mean.

Champagne.

This last thing is perhaps not so small. Over these many months when things are not-so-great, even when it seems I am alone, I am not. The Geek stands beside me. Sometimes I am the strong one; sometimes he is. Bolstering, encouraging, reminding. Someday soon hopefully, our luck will change. In the meantime, there are the tiny things that sometimes add up to enough greatness to light the way.

Leaving you with some magic. May it light the way.

[love is more thicker than forget]

love is more thicker than forget
more thinner than recall
more seldom than a wave is wet
more frequent than to fail
it is most mad and moonly
and less it shall unbe
than all the sea which only
is deeper than the sea
love is less always than to win
less never than alive
less bigger than the least begin
less littler than forgive
it is most sane and sunly
and more it cannot die
than all the sky which only
is higher than the sky
e.e. cummings

adrift

Most of the time, once I post something I don’t go back and read it again. It feels odd to me and I can’t explain why. So what I am about to say may have already been said. It would not surprise me. I beg your forgiveness in that case.

Recently, I’ve been haunted by the niggling feeling that something is just a bit off, just a bit out of reach. Something I can’t even define, which is irritating since it’s hard to fix something you can’t name. It feels like the gear is not quite right or maybe the scissors have a nick that always misses a piece of fabric, repeating the entire length. But you need that fabric cut so you keep using the scissors with the nick, even though you know the final product won’t be quite right.

If I’m honest, I would say that it’s at least partly due to doubt. Doubt that I am on the right path, doubt that I can trust my instincts, doubt that I am doing and saying the right things. For someone who tends to be anxious in the first place, it’s a sticky place to be.

Some of this doubt comes from a feeling of time running out, especially when it comes to living with two teenagers. The words in my head come out of my mouth, enter some completely discombobulated translation machine and fly into their heads as who-knows-what. All I know is what they are hearing is not what I think I am saying. So what they spew back is, well, not usually pleasant. Hence the doubt about trusting my instincts and saying the right things. What if I’m not? Their time remaining under this roof is short (I hope) and I fear I’m screwing them up even more. Half the time I’m pretty sure they don’t even like me.

There is no doubt that I’ve failed in areas I’ve wanted to succeed in for a long time. Let’s face it, people: I am not a clean freak. I do not have that gene. Combine that flaw with a small house, and you might see where I’m going with this. My daughter claims she won’t invite people over because the house is a mess. Her own room tends to Hoarder Stage 4 – no doubt I have passed that failing along to her. Time is running out to fix that, too. So I am trying. I don’t want their clearest memory of childhood to be a messy house with piles everywhere.

When you’re weighed down this way, everything gets second-guessed. Which is usually an exercise in futility. And round and round we go. Until one magical day when you pass through some invisible veil of clarity and realize some of the weight is being held down by your own two hands. Maybe all of it. Maybe you’re clinging to emotions and pain about things you can’t fix. So you let go, finger by finger, until it slowly melts away. You move your head slowly, testing the new lightness, looking ahead of you. You start to see possibility, all clear and sparkly, not soul-sucking failure.

No doubt I am still doing it wrong, but now I know I am also doing the best I can. It will just have to be enough. I’ll keep telling myself that until it’s true.

 

dreaming

Back in the day, when trying to picture the murky future and choose a college major, I imagined myself in a red power suit behind a stylish desk, molding words and images for people. I could see myself in PR; it seemed a logical, natural choice. I am pretty good with words. I thought I could be good with people.

After graduation, I ended up in an office job, not knowing any better and completely lacking in any ambition. I still have that job. It’s been 24 years.

In the years since, I’ve discovered I do not really  have the skills necessary to make it in the PR world. Yes, I can spin things and write things and organize the shit out of things. I am bossy. But diplomacy is not my forte. I am anxious around people. I am impatient with stupid people.

So maybe it’s a good thing that I still have this office job in a small company with hardly any stress. Am I living up to my potential? Is this what I thought I’d be doing 25 years after graduating college? Um, no.

Yes, I do a bit of PR-type stuff with the bar, but it’s behind the scenes stuff. No one sees me do it; I can hide behind the internet for the most part. It’s pretend PR.

So I’ve been thinking lately – WHAT would I do if I could choose? And since the lease is up on the bar again next year and we really have no idea what will happen, it’s not entirely a wasted exercise.

But what I would choose is only a dream. Complete make-believe, requiring a big pot of money. I’m not even sure if something like this would be profitable, so that big pot of money would have to be REALLY big.

Here is what I am good at/like to do (I think):

giving people food and drink

organizing

hosting

bossing

curating

looking at pretty things

playing with fabric and glue and paper and paint

So if money were no object, I would move to a town like Ellensburg and open a place called Studio Pie (name subject to change). It would be in a big space, one of the old brick buildings downtown, open but broken out into sections. We would bake things and serve coffee, maybe lunch, like the old Still Life Cafe. In another section, there would be fabrics and classes. In another section, there would be paints and canvas and glue and paper for collage, maybe screen printing, etc. And in another section, at night, there would be a small craft bar. With really good cocktails. In a town like Ellensburg, with a student population and creative residents, it might fly. Online sales might be a part. There could be a big space for guest teachers. Did I mention the cocktails? Maybe even bands occasionally? And now that I’m on a roll, there will be outdoor space in the back for dinner parties.

Now. While we are at it, The Geek can have a section for Games. Since we’re dreaming and all.

Off to buy a lottery ticket.

 

hope

We have a 16-year-old daughter. This one.

People say she looks like me. She and I don’t see it. We laugh when they say it, looking at each other like maybe THIS time, we will see the resemblance. The connection.

Physically, perhaps there is something of me in her. Internally, though, I am not so sure. The last few years have been a challenge, as regular readers may recall. Nothing life-shattering, knock on wood. But nothing for which I was prepared. I’ve been dangling, spinning in the wind.

It’s easy when they’re small. For the the most part, I felt like we were doing it right. Not perfect, by any means, but I didn’t feel like I did any permanent damage. You can pretty much trust your gut before they become teenagers, follow common sense, and they’ll turn out all right.

Well. Maybe you can do that with some teenage girls,  but not the one that lives in this house.

You want to give them room to grow, see what path they take, sit back a bit more than when they were little. You want to, really you do. But then they stumble and you rush forward, arms outstretched, trying to gently guide. Only it doesn’t come out gently – it comes out forcefully, bossy, controlling before you even know it. The words that sound so rational and calm come out in a language they don’t understand. Rather than translate it, they delete it altogether.

So you try again, louder, with more words. Like people sometimes do when talking to someone who speaks another language. They aren’t deaf, they just don’t recognize the words you are using. Speaking more loudly won’t make the words make sense.

The path that seemed so straight and clear now winds through dark woods. You try to claw your way to the light at the top of the trees, but something pulls you back every time. Once in a while a sunbeam breaks through, but it’s mere minutes before the clouds take it back again.

I’ve absorbed so many hurtful words that I am numb. They mostly bounce off now, but sometimes they are so fierce and sincere they make my stomach clench. And I am not innocent – though I don’t think my words are hurtful, I know sometimes they are loud and impatient and unyielding, when they should be soft and careful.

They say this stage is called “spoiling the nest”. They are making it an unpleasant place to be so that they will leave it. It’s bittersweet, because the time she has left here with us is so short, I hate to spend it arguing and being frustrated and hurt.

After yesterday’s failure, I took a step back. It occurs to me that I can’t care enough to make her care about the things she should care about, that I can’t fix the things she won’t fix. That even though her choices would not be MY choices, they are hers. Her mistakes to make, her mistakes to fix. And if she chooses not to fix them, that is still her choice. Hard and heartbreaking as it is, I need to let it happen.

I am going to try so very hard to move back to the sidelines, my heart in my throat, and watch. My arms will still be outstretched and ready to be her safety net. But they can’t be so tight around her that she can’t reach out herself.

I’ll be watching for the light in the woods.