Sometimes life turns in a circle like a beacon to show you something old in a new light. Yesterday I flew from my home in Las Vegas to the Monterey Peninsula in California, where I raised my children. Two of them still live here, teaching school and raising families of their own.
I visit as often as I can. But playing with the little people (ages 3, 2 and 1) doesn’t leave much time to spend with their parents. The parents don’t seem to mind. But I do. I miss them. So I said, on this visit, I’d like some time alone with each of the grownups. That raised a few eyebrows, but nobody balked.
I guess if your mama or mama-in-law asks for time, you either say yes or try to think of a good excuse. They don’t have to make excuses. Four adults, full calendars, jobs, kids, lives. It’s like trying to herd snakes. But if you don’t get what you didn’t ask for, there’s no one to blame but yourself. So I asked.
And that’s how I got to spend an evening with my daughter. Her husband took the night off from work to stay home with their 2-year-old. And she and I went to a restaurant near the house where we used to live.
I wish you could’ve seen us. She looked great. I looked like her mother, but that’s a look I’ll gladly take any time.
In the years after her dad died, going out to dinner together became a ritual for us. She was still in college but came home most weekends to make me get off my recliner, so to speak, whether I liked it or not.
Sometimes, to move on in life, we go through the motions until the feelings return, like stirring coals to rekindle a flame.
She made me stir the coals, my daughter. I’m remarried now, living 500 miles away, and she is married with a 2-year-old. I can’t recall the last time we had an evening alone together. Yet, we’ve never been closer.
Watching her face shine as she talked over dinner, I saw both the beautiful young woman that she’s become, and the little girl that she will always be to me.
She mentioned a mutual friend, a woman my age, who has long been a “mama-figure” for her. And for a moment, I felt an old stab of jealousy mixed with gratitude that I’ve always felt for women she looks up to.
Growing up, she was forever talking about some teacher or the mother of one of her friends that she admired for being extra kind or classy or cool.
She had excellent taste. They were all women I admired, too.
That didn’t mean I had to like them. Actually, I did like them. I knew her admiration for them had nothing to do with me. But I still felt somehow slighted. Just a little. Like a beauty pageant contestant who shows up at the swimsuit competition in a polka dot swimdress with a big tacky bow and the other contestants are all wearing string bikinis.
I started to tell my daughter that (she likes a good analogy) when suddenly I remembered my ill-fated “mamas” column. I wrote it years ago as a tribute to all the women who encouraged me and helped me to grow up.
It was a good column. Most people liked it. Except my mother, who said, “You need more mamas. I’m not enough!”
I could never understand why my mother never understood what I meant. But last night with my daughter, I saw it.
It’s simple, really. Mothers and daughters want the same thing: To be the number one woman in each other’s hearts.
Beyond that, we want to be surrounded by the kind of women who build us up and cheer us on and make us better.
We want to look good and feel good, no matter what, in a tacky swimdress or a string bikini.
I’m thankful for the “mamas” who’ve made a difference in my life and especially for those who still do so for my daughter.
But just so you know?
I’m her only mama. And she will always be my number-one girl.