It’s not easy being a mother; it seems someone is always at the ready to judge our performance. My daughter is a full-grown 21-year-old college student, and yet, I sometimes still meet with the harsh disapproval of another mother.
It happened over lunch when my friend asked for Natalie’s telephone number. I could not recite it.
“I don’t know her number,” I said. “I’d have to check my phone and I left that at home.”
My response was met with a simple one word reply: “REALLY?!” The disbelief in her voice matched the mortified look on her face. And, I felt absolutely horrible. Many months ago. This was months ago and, mind you, I’m still talking about it.
However, today I’m remembering the event because I felt a slight reprieve come my way when another friend asked a somewhat more personal question about my daughter and I was ready with an authoritative answer.
“I’m visiting the park in Florida and I wonder if you could ask Nats what Hogwarts House she’s in so I could buy her a piece of memorabilia?”
“HUFFLEPUFF,” I responded immediately. “What kind of mother doesn’t know what house their child is in?!”
I am so impressed with this picture taken from my train window!
I know it’s blurry, but I was on a train taking a photo of the railroad crossing sign…fun!
Love the rows of green…love California!
It was nice to leave the driving to someone else this time!
Madonna and Bishop Peaks…I’m almost there!
Time to toast the Cal Poly 2018 Graduates!
Amtrak’s Coast Starlight runs daily from Seattle, Washington to Los Angeles, California, via the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s a convenient option for me as it makes a stop in Salinas, which is less than 20 miles from my home.
I just need a ride to the station and I’m off! The kid in me seems to come out as I stand on the platform waiting for my train. I can’t help it. First, I see it, and then as it gets closer, I hear the great rumbling sound of the beast that will deliver me to San Luis Obispo.
For an additional twenty dollars, I’ve upgraded to a business class ticket so I’ve got a large seat with plenty of space to stretch out. Upon boarding, I settle in and unpack my brown bag lunch and prepare to just sit…and do nothing more than marvel at the beauty of my beloved state.
As the train leaves the station, it makes a steadily increasing chugging sound and the whistle sounds. I’m on my way to celebrate the graduation of one of my daughter’s friends from Cal Poly.
As a business class traveler, I’m entitled to free WiFi, but I know that perk is really no perk at all because most of the area between Salinas and Paso Robles is so remote that it’s without service. I find it oddly comforting to know that there are vast stretches of my state that remain undeveloped or sparsely populated and agricultural. So for three and a half hours, I sat back, relaxed and snapped photos on my iPhone to share with you.
Shortly after arriving, I continued to enjoy my day with a glass of local wine made from the grapes I saw from my train window.
My favorite people are the people who begin conversations with a question…this question: “How’s Natalie?” This gives me the opportunity to communicate straight from the depths of my heart. And, it immediately puts a smile on my face, because my daughter is my favorite topic.
I remember a strange encounter at Noah’s Bagels when Natalie was about four years old. I noticed a man at a nearby table watching us enjoy our cream cheese covered indulgence. On his way out, he looked at me and said he thought it was nice to see a mother and daughter so obviously enjoying each other’s company.
“Oh, she’s my greatest joy, ” I remember answering.
He corrected me. “Well, your husband must be your greatest joy or you wouldn’t have her.”
If I ran into that man today, I’d tell him the same thing. Indeed, I love my husband, still. But as Alice Thomas Ellis so succinctly put it:
“There is no reciprocity. Men love women. Women love children. Children love hamsters*. Hamsters don’t love anyone; it is quite hopeless.”
Being a mother is, at once, both the most humbling and the most rewarding experience of my life. I will never consider it anything less than a miracle. It will always be the choice I am most proud of. It will always be the responsibility that drives me to be the best person that I can be.
It’s so easy to go on and on about what makes my daughter special, but I’ll just say that, despite all of her accomplishments, it is her kindness and generosity that I am most proud of. As I’ve watched her grow into an adult, I am so comforted to see her display a quiet, resolute strength and a deep understanding and acceptance of herself and those closest to her. She is a young woman who I both enjoy and admire.
I’d like to thank her for letting me “drop by” to enjoy a donut with her and her roommates. There is no place I’d rather be today than sitting across the table from my girl at SLODOCO dipping a maple bar into my latte.
Happy Mother’s Day, dear readers!
* When I repeat this quote, I change hamster to dog. Kids loves dogs and dogs DO love them back!
Spring Break ended two weeks ago, but Winnie still waits for Natalie to emerge from her bedroom every morning. I’m sure she doesn’t understand what “college” means, but she seems to understand that something’s going on when the duffel bag comes out!
Given how darling and devoted this dog is, I’ve begun to wonder if my daughter returns home to visit me …or her!
I’m a visual person and this seems to be how I decide what I want to invest my energy in. Last January I pictured myself blogging in my pink shed. By March, I was writing to you!
This year I pictured a stronger me; I never thought I’d say that. I’m lifting weights; I never thought I’d do that! And, I’m making progress!
When I hobbled in to meet my personal trainer, I was nine pounds heavier with a swollen, blue ankle. Jonathan was supportive and instructive. He was careful to reinforce the correct position for every exercise so that I would not experience a “gym injury” of any kind. After all, I confessed that I am an extremely experienced and talented klutz. My friends asked if I felt that he was pushing me to my max, and I had to respond negatively….until.
I made a quick trip over to see my daughter who is an active college student. Her routine includes Boot Camp in the Park every Sunday. How could I say no?! The trainer modified some of the activities to take into account my weak ankle, but I pulled my weight…figuratively and literally! I felt so proud of myself that I sent a photo to my trainer.
Oops! I returned home to an amped up routine.
“Ack, you don’t feel sorry for me anymore, do you?!” I asked Jonathan.
“Nope, think I saw you dragging a weighted tire through the park!” he answered.
When, way back when, I was in high school, kids divided themselves up into four groups: jocks, brains, socials and stoners. I fell into the “brains” group. I’ve always felt most comfortable pursuing intellectual goals. My recent foray into the gym has not been easy and so I feel that much more pride in my commitment and effort. I am getting stronger! I love that. This brings me to my second bit of newly acquired wisdom on My Journey to Strong:
My husband and I had just finished watching Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War the week before I visited the Avila Valley Barn with my daughter and her college friends. I passed a man in a baseball cap that read: Vietnam Veteran as I entered the property.
I looked at him and said, “Nice cap,” and gave him a thumbs up. It was, I suppose, a rather awkward way of acknowledging his service, but he responded with an open smile.
After I shopped for fresh produce, sampled apple pie and selected pumpkins for my seasonal table, I felt compelled to join the veteran on the porch. I sat down in the rocking chair next to him and said hello. Mike and I began an easy conversation about the fine weather and pleasures of Avila Beach.
Then I began the conversation that I really wanted to have with him by asking if he’d seen the Burns’ documentary. He had not, but he readily shared his story with me. He had just entered high school when the war began, but he said he somehow knew that he would end up in Vietnam.
After graduation, he received a scholarship and attended The Boston Conservatory of Music. Mike was an opera singer for two years… until he was drafted. He was discharged a year later after he witnessed the death of two others standing very near to him. His injuries, both physical and emotional, remain with him. It seems the after effects of Agent Orange have been the most troublesome to his well-being.
“The folks at the VA keep telling me I’m not long for this world,” he told me. “But, I don’t put a lot of stock into what the government says.”
His distrust seems justified.
“My wife and I just settled into the home of our dreams,” he continued. “It’s a small house with a huge garden that my wife loves. And, I’ve finally found some peace.”
I asked what had become of his musical career and he answered that it was another “casualty of war.” After many years of struggling with life on a daily basis, Mike discovered that he had the patience and skill needed to work with disabled children.
“I’d have never known I could help so many kids if I hadn’t served,” he concluded.
I left the barn that day with tears spilling from beneath my sunglasses. My thoughts turned to Mike again this weekend as we celebrated Veteran’s Day. I certainly hope the VA doctors are wrong; I hope Mike has many years to enjoy life in his new home and garden.
I visited my nearly 21-year-old daughter at college this weekend and over dinner I looked at her and said: “I like who you are becoming.”
She paused and so I felt the need to explain my random, motherly comment.
“You know… you are evolving, becoming an adult,” I clarified.
“Thank you, Mom,” she said. “But aren’t we all becoming someone?”
Well, that’s just the way my daughter is….wonderful and wise and inspiring! Indeed it would be rather boring and depressing if I were not also continuing to become someone. In fact, it is our shared evolution that binds us even closer.
I talk to her about my new adventures in the blogosphere and she shares the challenges and rewards of renting her first apartment. We hold each other accountable to the fitness goals we’ve set. She shares her academic successes and I recount how proud I feel when my puppy Winnie piddles in the appropriate place. We dream of our next trip to London…she to study and me and her dad to sightsee. I can see that even our relationship has become something new and beautiful. I’ll always be her mother, first, but it’s great to feel the warmth of her understanding as a friend, too.
I love that she reminded me that the joys of evolution are not simply for the young.
No, that’s not a typo in the title! It’s Friday and thank god for it …TGIF! But, alas, today I’m also feeling grateful for Target. How did we ever accomplish anything major before this retailer came to our rescue? Thank God for Target! They’ve got shower curtains and small desks, frozen lasagna and iced coffee in large jugs, shower curtains and toaster ovens, laundry detergent and first-aid kits and lots of storage options: bins, boxes and baskets of all sizes.
On Monday night, I hit the sack at 10 p.m. I was up at 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday at my pup Winnie’s insistence and again at 4:30 to provide puppy relief. I loafed until 6 a.m. and then headed south down Highway 101 to help my daughter move into her first off-campus apartment. By 11 a.m., we’d made our first trip to Target. You may wonder: how many Target trips does it take to set-up a new apartment for three students? I’ve got the answer; read on!
Day one was devoted to kitchen set-up; we’ve got our priorities straight! Things went smoothly until we discovered the garbage bags did not fit into the very old trash compactor and we’d need a stepping stool to provide access to upper shelves to maximize storage. We started a list and prepared for trip #2.
We began the trip with a detour to the in-store Starbucks. Iced tea in hand, we headed our separate ways to divide and conquer. I found myself in the pop-up “Dorm/Apartment Kitchen Essentials Department” where I encountered three young men debating the attributes of two different silverware trays. I stopped to eavesdrop…just because I find the young amusing. In the end, they decided they didn’t really need a sorter.
“Let’s just let it rattle around in the drawer,” the tall one said to the other two. They nodded and were off… presumably to buy a frozen pizza or something really “essential”.
I wondered silently: would I want my daughter to end up with a guy who felt he needed a flatware organizer or a guy who knew he could live without one?
I fell into bed exhausted that night and woke at 1:30 and again at 4 a.m. Ah, the puppy has ME trained! The “girls” all left for work early that morning after letting me into the apartment for some solo unpacking and organizing. I sat on the small couch drinking cold coffee that I had thrown into the cart on trip #1. The day ended on a sweet note, as well, when I placed the pillow I’d secretly purchased on the faux fur chair in the corner of my daughter’s room.
Day 3 began with a fourth trip to Target. Why hadn’t I bought an under-bed storage bin yet?! There were exactly two left in the store when I reached up to pull one from the shelf at the same moment as another woman. I looked at her with a slightly desperate expression that she seemed to understand.
“Oh, I only want one of them,” she said. “First year or second,” she asked.
“Third,” I replied proud of my daughter’s seniority. I pointed to the next aisle where the last two shoe organizers resided.
“Get one while you can, ” I suggested. (Well, I had seniority, too!)
It was the final day of my visit and we made a fifth trip to Target. This trip required a visit to the Customer Service Counter where we had to return the curtains that didn’t fit and the chair that clashed with the sofa. All went smoothly.
But, there was something bothering me. I’d been very smart and ordered a few key pieces ahead of time and yet they still hadn’t been delivered. Just as I sat down, with another glass of cold brew, I had the text from my husband: Lots of boxes deliveredtoday. They’re for here?!
In the end, it took six trips to move my “child” into her first apartment and I’m glad I was there for all of them! Parenting is a long journey and it’s a privilege to feel welcome in my daughter’s world as she approaches the big 21.
P.S. Hoping the puppy feels as tired as I do this evening!