We hovered about the gate lounge waiting for her to appear. I was unaccountably nervous wondering how things would be now, while my ex-husband remarked for the umpteenth time on the arduous nature of travelling from New York to LA and then LA to Melbourne.
I have had time to reflect on a few things while she has been away; such as realising that while my approach to parenting was always unsentimental, I also spent a vast portion of both daughter’s younger lives wishing them older.
I was never a “career mum”; cottoning on that every session of my first mothers group was going to involve the same conversational topics about infant development, I quickly resigned. When all the other mothers were sobbing luxuriantly over a consolatory morning tea on the first day of primary school, I was organising coffee catch ups with childless friends and wishing 3.15pm didn’t come around so quickly.
My mother, who deserves a complete blog entry if not an entire mini-series, once remarked that she had never wanted babies, she just wanted little friends. Fortunately, I was spared her particular blueprint for parenting as she disappeared when I was six, however this attitude goes some way to explaining my initial lack of maternal gooeyness
and her lifelong attachment to cats.
Art works from kindergarten upwards were judged display worthy on the basis of aesthetic appeal and design. A pasting, for example, bearing a wonky cardboard toilet roll, pipe cleaner and a Dencorub box would be summarily dismissed as substandard and consigned to the recycle box for the rubbish man alone to appreciate. Any paintings of amorphous blobs without an adequate explanation for their creative impetus would be similarly rejected.
I was like a very stern Russian gym instructor.
“Not good enough (Godunov?!) AGAIN!!”
All the pieces that eventually made it on to the National Gallery of Westinghouse were colourful, quirky and had reasonable back stories attached to them. Many have been archived for a time when the artists may possibly wish to make comparisons with their own offsprings works; or consult a therapist.
Writing projects received a similar treatment.
“Wuns pon a time ther woz a luverley rebit. it ated a carit. The end.”
Not cute. Dopey. Can do better. Here, let me do it.
Fast forward to now-ish and both children seem to like me – which might surprise many of you given the no frills approach to their early childhood. The relationship with each is different but the three of us share an often disconcertingly forthright honesty and lunatic sense of humour. Both girls contributed to my wedding earlier in the year in word and song. It was variously funny and moving and I confess to a massive rush of maternal pride and gratitude.
Organising my youngest child to leave the country some five months ago, it occurred to me that an era of parenting was potentially over. She was being launched into the world and never was there a child so anxious to start her adult life. I was excited and fearful for her in equal measure. At the concourse leading to doors that would swallow her up in the International terminal, we embraced. I swear I felt the teeniest ping in my heart and the unbidden tears genuinely surprised me.
A Skype conversation from New York revealed that she had accepted a ride with an unlicensed Dominican taxi driver from the airport to the hotel (“Taken” anyone?). She went on to assure me that as he had a business card AND pens with his name on them, he must be legitimate. He also invited her to experience some Dominican hospitality at his home in Harlem should she be at a loose end. AAAAGGGGHHHHHHH !!!!!
Life went on and contact with her was sporadic at best. Facebook remained our most reliable indicator that she was alive and apparently happy. Somewhere at around the four month mark I realised that for the first time in many years, I had absolutely no idea what was going on in her head. She was absorbed in new people, new experiences and was already planning her return there in the first quarter of 2013.
What if she doesn’t need me anymore?
The day she was due to depart New York Hurricane Sandy hit. She had remained in Massachusetts carving pumpkins and was utterly unfazed by the potential disaster, remarking via text message that she was disappointed there had been no flying cows.
I stood shifting my weight from one foot to the other, scanning the faces of all the exiting passengers. How big IS this plane? Maybe she went through with the threat to ‘miss’ the flight and stayed with her new friends after all. Why am I so anxious, what am I worried about?
Then she was there with a goofy look on her face. I smiled so hard my face hurt. She snuffled into my neck, “Sorry I stink mum, I’ve been on that plane FOREVAH!”
And for now at any rate, things are just exactly the same.