BOO! Who?!

scaredI’ve never enjoyed scary things. Halloween, haunted houses, thriller movies, and ghost stories make my skin crawl. People who revel in being frightened tell me about the satisfying adrenaline rush they get when they’re scared out of their wits. Here, we have to agree to disagree. Feeling terrified = bad.

Until this weekend, I hadn’t realized how far the scope of my faintheartedness extended. Husband thought he’d done a good deed by surprising me with a visit from Principessa who was supposed to be seven hours away at college.

There I stood, at the crack of dawn, half asleep on my feet in the kitchen. Stealthily, Principessa crept around the corner and planted herself silently in front of me. I thought I was seeing a ghost.

When I tell you that my brain stopped working, I’m not exaggerating. My body went into full-blown terror mode. My mind literally could not reconcile what my eyes were seeing.

When I managed to unfreeze myself, I began screaming repeatedly, “OH MY GOD!” until my brain unstuck itself and released a cascade of word salad that had my family laughing their butts off. The video that Husband took to capture the moment validates a breakdown of the senses so complete that I’m still reeling from the after-shocks.

For the remainder of the weekend I felt a little off-kilter. It was like playing that game where you return to a room and have to guess the one thing that has changed. In the weeks that Principessa had been gone, I had become accustomed to the uncomfortable feeling that her absence created. The empty seat at the dinner table, the lonely bedroom, the random pile of shoes that never moved. And now, here she was, in the flesh!

Like a new mother, I snapped multiple photos of my first-born with a desire to capture every nuance of her being. Principessa might as well have been an exotic bird – such was my renewed incredulity of her beauty and perfection. She would catch me staring at her with a silly grin on my face, so completely enamored of her that I had to fight the urge to squeal with delight.

The peaceI felt at having my entire brood together under one roof was indescribably satisfying. My heart and mind breathed a sigh of relief, creating a relaxation response that informed me of the low-level anxiety I’d been harboring since launching Principessa.

This emptying of the nest is teaching me all manner of things about resilience and balance and priorities. I could say that I’ve valued my time as a mother up to this point, but I’d not understood the concept of cherishing until the moments began to slip through my fingers as quickly as grains of sand.

My daughter is absent in form but has never been closer to my thoughts. The less she needs me, the more I long to take care of her. The more I say goodbye to her, the more it hurts because I know that the next time I see her she will be an even newer version of herself – one that may challenge my unrealistic urge to keep her all to myself.

Principessa wondered why I didn’t have more questions to ask her. In theory, I wanted to know every detail of her new life. But her very presence was enough to convince me that all was well. She exuded peace and confidence. My girl had matured at warp speed by gobbling up the buffet of opportunities available to her as a college Freshman.

We parted with mutual endearment. “I wish you could be at college with me,” she said, which made me wince. Even when we are exactly where we’re meant to be, doing what is best at the right time, we can’t help but long for the presence of our loved ones to share in the joy of the experience.

But this time belongs to her. I wouldn’t dream of inserting myself into the forefront of this adventure. Instead, I will take my place at the back of the book, buried amidst the pile of ever-growing bibliographic references that contribute to the captivating story that is her.

Faring thee well now.
Let your life proceed by its own design.
Nothing to tell now.
Let the words be yours, I’m done with mine.

‘Cassidy’ by the Grateful Dead

A Girl’s Wishes

sad butterfly 1I wish my father would have been kinder about fat girls. Perhaps I wouldn’t have starved myself in order to appear well-under the imagined weight that was the threshold of his love.

I wish the schoolboys wouldn’t have judged other girls harshly, finding fault with models and actresses and teachers. Every criticism, though not directed at me, prompted my own inner critic to register a list of unacceptable traits and unrealistic expectations of perfection.

I wish that advertisements would have been honest about beauty and the need for improvement. Perhaps I wouldn’t have wasted so much money and time on fixing myself.

I wish my boyfriends didn’t believe me when I pretended not to care that they flirted with other girls. I might not have crumbled on the inside while learning to put on a pretty face.

I wish my friend’s father knew that nicknames aren’t always welcome. Perhaps I wouldn’t have doubted the me I knew, compared to the me he labeled.

I wish someone had taught my high school crush to be gentle and kind when letting a girl know that he’s just not into her. Perhaps my veins wouldn’t have turned to ice and colored my future relationships.

I wish I would have had the courage to say ‘no’ and to register my honest opinion.  It might have spared me regret.

I wish I hadn’t needed boys to affirm my self-esteem. But I did. I was human. And I was girl.

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