Thursday, November 12, 2015

Some Things Never Change

I am grateful to author E.C. Moore for sharing this short piece in her blog series, An Honest to God True Story. If you missed it there, I hope you enjoy it here!


My daughter sits beside me, her head on the pillow smashed against the car window as I drive. I take furtive glances in her direction as I maneuver Interstate 5 from Seattle to Portland. I admire the beauty of her sleeping face and am lost in memories of the face of a colicky newborn, the face of an energetic toddler, the face of a sullen teenager always gentle, peaceful, beautiful when relaxed in sleep.

A month earlier my daughter asked what I wanted for my birthday.

"You," I said. "A weekend with you in Portland."
My daughter will be married in the coming year. She and her fiancĂ© work full-time and have recently bought a home. She has a tight schedule, and now she is applying for grad school. Weekends alone with mom are a precious gift.
I made the mother-daughter trip an annual ritual throughout my daughter's childhood. Our first trip alone together, we flew to San Francisco to visit one of my sisters. My daughter was four, small and pink in the airplane seat, her eyes wide with excitement, her arms clutching her white Bear-Bear. Thirty minutes into the short flight she slumped against the airplane window, Bear-Bear her pillow, her face peaceful perfection. Now, twenty two years later, as I drive toward Portland, I see that same perfection.
Another mother-daughter trip, our first to Portland, she was a pre-teen. We took Amtrak. Again the movement lulled her to sleep, again I admired her beauty and felt pangs of jealousy of her slumber, of her beauty, of her oneness with the world. No, not jealousy really, maybe envy, maybe joy. I knew her trust allowed her peace, and that knowledge was my reward.
At fifteen my daughter insisted on bringing a friend on our mother-daughter trip. I stalled and struggled. Was no trip better than one with a friend along?
"But we've visited my aunties," she argued. "And we went to Lummi Island to see your friend. It isn't always just us."
I had to admit she was right and went along with her plan. I felt like a chauffeur, the front seat beside me empty. When I looked in the rearview mirror, I saw the two testy teens in the backseat, deep in sleep, their heads on pillows against opposite doors, all traces of the testiness gone. I admired the beauty of my daughter's face and was reminded again of all our travels and all the stages of my daughter's life. I relaxed into the drive, the quiet, the peace.
That was our last trip together for a while. Mother-daughter trips were not something my daughter showed interest in as she navigated high school and university. Maybe I should've pushed harder, made the trips more enticing, but she was off exploring the world on her own, and some part of me knew that's what she needed to do.
Two months ago, when she asked what I wanted for my birthday, I hesitated. Rejection at any age hurts.
"A trip to Portland," I said.
"Fun," she said. "Let's stay at The Benson."
We decide to drive and once again I bask in the peaceful beauty of my daughter's face as the movement of the car lulls her to sleep. I enjoy this amazing person who came from me and the memories of our life together. These are the unexpected birthday gifts my daughter gives me.

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