By Kelly Fondow
My daughter is a POET.
Through poetry she searches for herself: for her long-absent father â€“ for the Latina deep within her â€“ for the young woman falling into love for the first time. Through poetry she introduces me to myself, an unexpected result perhaps, but the truth just the same. Such a wonder it is, to see myself through her words.
She began this journey two years ago. Not the tentative whisper one would expect from a girl so young, but an explosive voice from the start. Today she is a POET.
And me? I have been her mother forever. Though I walked quite contentedly through life for my first twenty one years, I wasnâ€™t myself until she joined me here on earth.
From the beginning she has been my compass, my conscience, my source of energy and joy. Now, on the eve of her eighteenth birthday, I begin to brace myself. In mere moments she will leave this house. I tell myself that I will be ready. Together we have worked our way through college applications, essays and visits. We have daydreamed about life on campus, about studying abroad and writing and majors and minors. I have worked the numbers inside and out in an attempt to imagine how on earth Iâ€™ll pay for it. What is all of this if not preparation for the inevitable? Of course, I know that it is time. She has been an adult her entire life, wise and strong and so full of insight. I have none of the worries that so many parents have. I need not fear for her ability to stand independently, or to make good decisions, whatever distance there may be between us.
These last few years have been, I know, a subtle form of preparation. We, thankfully, have been spared the indignity that so many mothers and daughters experience during the teenage years. There were seldom hints of that famous teenage resentment. Despite that, I know now that with great care and subtlety, she has been inching away from me. Little by little she has been focusing her energy inward. Our lives are no longer completely intertwined as they once were. Now I am grateful for the unexpected, unplanned-for moments. Our connections still come, but they are increasingly seldom. She has been leaving me slowly â€“ so slowly that I hardly noticed at first. Her thoughts, her dreams, her worries, once so clear to me are masked today, protected.
I am a strong woman. I have had the great fortune of falling in love. Though for the first decade it was just my Grace and I, now we are a family of four.
We are, as it happens, a deeply happy family. I will not be alone when she leaves for college. Far from it. And yetâ€¦
What am I without her?
I wrote these words three years ago. This morning, while the house sleeps around me, I marvel at how far weâ€™ve come. Grace is home for two days, a brief interlude before she dives head-first into her Junior year. The distance that she carefully constructed between us during her late teen years has been slowly melting away. She is less guarded now, and much more open with her trials and triumphs. She shares these things not only though her poetry these days, but through simple conversation. The child in her is still visible to the trained eye, but more and more difficult to recognize.
Our household was wobbly in the months after she left. I was an emotional wreck. My partner RoiAnn and our little Eva tiptoed around me, doing their best to be patient with me while dealing with their own sense of loss. Eventually each of us shifted and settled, in an attempt to fill the gap that Graceâ€™s absence left. Two years in, weâ€™re old pros. We just did a whirlwind 24-hour trip to Madison to move Grace from one decrepit apartment to another, bringing her back with us for a couple days of home cooking and late nights in Chicago. Eva is preparing for second grade. Iâ€™m selling houses. Roi is planning next yearâ€™s conference for her organization. Life marches on â€“ and yet, in these early morning moments before the house wakes, although my lovely poet is asleep in her room here at home, I sit here missing her. As I still do, every minute of every day.
- Write to Kelly Fondow and RoiAnn Phillips at email@example.com.