The Engagement

Love is in the air. More than lyrics to a song, the sentiment is indicative of my personal clime of late. My daughter recently announced her engagement and although I knew, of course, this would happen, the news caused my heart to be blown across the prairie landscape of motherhood, like an impetuous tumbleweed of emotions brimming with decades of mothering moments. I saw my sparkling daughter at this happy juncture and somehow recalled the first time looking into those newborn eyes. Then all these memories flowed, you know the ones, the everyday acts of parenting, from buckling her into a contraption called a car seat, helping her solve math problems that were beyond me, shopping for those extra-long sheets for her college dorm, and more. Just fractal images of a life I watched grow and bloom. And no matter how sentimental it might seem, I knew this engagement was one of those times in life that are signposts. Ones that remind us to sit up straight and pay attention, to look, to be here now, to recognize life as it expands before our eyes.

I was reminded of one my daughter’s many gifts, that of forethought and planning. She is a natural organizer and an architect of what’s to come. I, on the other hand, tend to navigate by feel. Just imagine the conversations we’ve had in her lifetime, like a Vulcan discussing possible college majors with a Middle Earth Elf. But no matter, it makes us a perfect familial pair as we each have our strengths. Even at a young age, she was helping me plan, looking at the bigger picture and how I might get there. And, hopefully, I’ve taught her that intuition is an invaluable attribute. While our individual operating systems serve a purpose, together we laugh at how we can over-use them for “evil” as a way to control life. Life, which can be such a bountiful giver, if sometimes we just let up on the steering now and then.

So as I watch my daughter plan her wedding, I admire her clarity, her “it was the easiest yes, ever.” I can see the future she’s crafting and it’s beautiful. I look at her betrothed and recognize what a fine choice she has made; a brilliant, kind man. An engaged one, in every sense of the word. I acknowledge a capability and sagacity I didn’t have at her age. It is a fine moment when we learn from our kids.

I’ve always looked at the broad scope of life through the lens of motherhood, never thinking too much about how old I am. After all, I still feel young, well, that is when I’m not limping out of a yoga-light class. Don’t you love telling people you hurt yourself stretching? For me, my daughter’s age has been an indicator on my dashboard of life showing where I am in the overall scheme. And the news always shocks me. I remember, when she turned 20, thinking, “Where did those two decades go?” Tempus fugit is exemplified in that second you see your child as an adult, but you feel like you just changed their diaper. It’s why celebrating your child’s occasions are so important. Whether the yearly birthday or the ritual of graduation, it helps me press pause and turn my head to look behind to see from whence we came. Although, I don’t recommend turning fully, for that gaze is the mother of all sirens luring us afar. Like opening those boxes of memorabilia from your child’s youth where you find a trove of memories from finger-painted portraits to plaster of Paris handprints that are so tiny they break your heart. And don’t forget the baby teeth, the school report cards, or the shaved crayon Mother’s Day cards. An abyss of emotion, its tide will take you out to a sea of longing, wishing you could hold your child as a babe, just one more time.

But do look back, if ever so slightly. I did that day of the announcement. And that inward recognition of yes, here is my child, now an adult entering into her own union, creating her own family, was a sublime acknowledgement. While she indeed is her own person, I could still see that ancient tether from mother to child. I will always hold onto my end so whenever she needs, she can give a gentle tug. It may be to lend a hand, a shoulder, or a heart - or it could be just to have a laugh recalling another oneof- a-kind everyday moment, like as a child when she said, “I love you bigger than the university.” Me too, my daughter, me too.