The other day, I walked into Big Girl’s classroom to pick her up and there you were. You were seated in one of those tiny Kindergarten chairs, clutching your big black purse, and my girl was sitting there next to you, on the carpet below, her head almost resting on your knee. I smiled when I saw this. And walked toward you both. Soon, we were swept up in the tide of departures, of goodbyes. But for some reason this image has stayed with me through the course of this busy week, you and my girl in that sunny classroom.
You surprised me. I didn’t know you’d be there. But there you were with my first baby, my baby who’s no longer a baby but truly a girl. And maybe all of this was so powerful because I’m feeling it keenly, whatever it is – the march of time? the sharpness of transition? the abiding desire to get this motherhood thing right? Maybe it struck me because this was the first time I really saw what some others have said – that she looks like you. Yes, your hair is a similar hue and you both wear your glasses, but there was something more – in the way you each sat there waiting, in the way your eyes came alive when you saw me. I don’t really know.
What I do know is that I feel grateful. Grateful for whatever you did to raise us the way you raised us. More and more, I find myself asking myself questions about what it means to raise good people and more and more I am thinking back, remembering our afternoons on the stoop or the soccer field, our weekends in the country, our lively family talks around the big, wooden table. More and more, I am realizing that there was indeed some magic at work in that home of ours, that home that held the five of us Donnelley girls, that home that we return to many Sunday nights, and for Halloweens and birthdays and Christmases too. Your home.
Recently, as you know, I’ve had the privilege of glimpsing another side of you: the professional side. And, Mom, this has been amazing. I’ve heard your stories and I’ve gathered that you are very good at what you do, but to be able to see you speak so intelligently and eloquently about a place we all love has been truly remarkable. I am so happy that I’ve had this chance.
Anyway, I have so much to say and it will not fit tidily into a blog post because the important things never do, but I am pleased to be here saying some of the things I am thinking because for some reason it’s a bit harder for me to grab you in real life and say the things that I want to say. I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s that life is busy and time is short and there never seems to be the right moment to utter the big things.
Anyway, the point is that I love you and hope you had a very happy birthday. I thought our dinner on Friday was perfect; a quiet night at our favorite place, the scene of so many dinners with our friends and our family. I hope you like the earrings, but more than that, I hope you like these words.
We never know the love of our parents for us till we have become parents. There is something to this. All I can say is that the more I plunge into this parenthood thing, the more I feel it. The love you and Dad had for us, the love you continue to have for us. This is tricky terrain, this being a mom business, but I have a pretty good road map to follow.
I look forward to many more birthdays, many more classrooms, many more chapters, many more words.
Happy birthday, Mom. I love you to pieces.
Do you think it’s true that we don’t really know the love our parents have for us until we become parents ourselves? How often do you consider what it means to raise good people? As you navigate the terrain of parenthood, or contemplate navigating said terrain in the future, do you find yourself pondering the landscape of your own childhood?