Tuesday, October 4, 2011

An Amazing Journey

For Monday, October 3, 2011

Tonight I began reading a memoir/travelogue written by Sue Monk Kidd, the author of The Secret Life of Bees, a novel I fell in love with several years ago. Together with her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor, this memoir is said to chronicle the author’s quest to redefine herself as a woman upon the eve of her fiftieth birthday while her daughter, fresh from her college graduation, also ponders what she wishes to do with her life. Their travels together to Athens, Eleusis, Paris, and places in between help each of them find inspiration and provide an array of wondrous reflection points.

I read only the first twelve pages of the book. Within those opening pages is a description of how Monk Kidd is observing her twenty-two year old daughter and how she, now grown, is ready to move on with her adult life, She is “struggling to figure out the beginning of being a woman” while her mother is struggling to figure out “the beginning of the ending of it”. Intertwined with Monk Kidd’s explanation of her latest behaviors as she studies her aging face and how “out of boldness or recklessness “ she moves to a new home, the author admits vulnerably that she misses her daughter “almost violently” and that she is “possessed by an acute feeling of loss”. Moving into a story of Greek goddesses Demeter and Persephone, Monk Kidd shares her insight on her relationship with her daughter--what it was and how it is changing. She knows that her daughter is being “rightly abducted by her own separate life”, but as she says plainly, Mom “wants her daughter back”. She likens her relationship with her daughter as having fallen into a “strange purgatory” and she hopes to “reforge (their) connection”.

It never fails to amaze me how a book can find me when I need it most. I may be 43 years old and my eldest daughter only 19 but like Monk Kidd, I too have participated in the establishment of new rules of parenting. I too have struggled to let my eldest daughter go while “unconsciously seeing her as an appendage of” myself. I want her to craft an identity separate from me as is healthy, and as she most certainly is doing, and yet, to find full acceptance that my maternal role is to watch this woman evolving into a young woman without working endlessly to provide a net or counsel the way I always did, is simply not easy.

Last fall I was proud of the way I had handled Sydney’s move to college. I did not cry beyond the first hour after she left and although I did have two more children in the house to keep me distracted, like Monk Kidd I was also thinking, with smugness perhaps, that I was well adjusted. I have many interests, creative passions, a spiritual journey, and a career separate from my role of mother. I have a life of my own. The growing separation between Sydney and I is normal and good. She came home only a few times in her first year and those visits were full of her stories and her accomplishments. But what I was failing to acknowledge was that our old life “dissolved” and this new adventure before us had pulled us both into a new awakening.

To read Sue Monk Kidd’s book co-authored by her daughter Ann, is a smart move for me as Sydney begins her second year of college and as my 16 year old daughter Emma begins her college search. The wisdom of the two women authors, each at their unique stations in life, is giving me a means to think on my own present and future as I watch my children leave the nest. I also think that I’ll look back at my own relationship with my own Mom and see truth within the changes of our life journey together. With such a strong role model 40 years older than I, and with children 24, 27, and 31 years younger, this age of 43 is an amazing age to be living. I am sincerely working to savor the experiences and, simply or complexly, to enjoy the ride. I only wish that my growing daughters and I could find the means to travel to Greece together. I suppose we’ll just have to continue our journey as mother and daughter wherever life takes us.

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