Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Love Remains

Last Thursday night, my daughter Emma and I made our way to North Carolina for an audition scheduled at Elon University on Friday. Hoping for acceptance into the BFA program in musical theater, Emma prepared a monologue and two contrasting songs and participated in a dance routine taught on the spot. The parents accompanying children to this audition spent the day in the performing arts building, sitting either on the floor of the lobby or in chairs in a carpeted waiting room. It was a long day but like many of the parents, I was my child's cheerleader and food/drink gatherer, so I stayed close. I did some reading, surfed the web, and struck up conversations with other parents. The day went well and, although busy for Emma, I was content to have hours of downtime. But it was a long day and my back was growing weary of the makeshift spot I'd secured on the carpet at the back of the waiting area. 

Emma returned from the final portion of her audition day. Suddenly my cell phone rang. I looked at the screen and saw my father's name flashing. "It's my Dad", I explained to those I was speaking with at the time. I quickly left the room to find a spot in the hallway. I clicked "Accept". 

"Hi Dad"

Dad had called to check in with me. He asked about Emma's audition but more pointedly, he'd called to make sure his "girls" were okay. What a sweet father I have! We were traveling alone and admittedly, neither of us are overly experienced travelers. In fact, this had been my daughter's first airplane ride. And so, with a blizzard raging in the Northeast, I explained to my father how our flight home was canceled. Our stay in North Carolina would be extended another day and Emma and I planned to go shopping and to enjoy the sunny warmer weather. "Make the most of it. Soak in that sun", my Dad said. Over the few days we were there, my 85 year old Dad called three times to check in on my daughter and I. Each call to my cell phone made me smile.

And yet, with each call, I thought of my Mom. I wondered what she was doing and what Dad was sharing with her as he got off the phone each time. Was she confused by our trip or did she need review of why my daughter and I were traveling alone in the middle of winter? I thought of how in past years I'd have called home full of stories of each leg of our journey, describing the people met, the sights seen, the conversations held. My daughter and I were having an amazing time with one another, an adventure full of easy laughter and silliness but with heart-to-heart talks too. The intimacy of travel is beautiful and our time together reminded me of all the good times I'd had with my own mother when we'd travel with my Dad. We had traveled to Florida and to Bermuda, to Texas and to Washington DC. We'd also spent a week in Finland and a week in Stockholm, Sweden. Those are travels that I will never forget, and yet sadly, my Mom can't recall those trips anymore. 

I want to write about our trip to North Carolina: the way Emma and I grabbed one each other's hand as our plane lifted off the runway, the way we oohed and ah-ed as we pressed our noses to the plane windows to see the lights of New York City, the shared navigation from one spot to another in our sharp red car which we nick-named Taylor Swift, our talks on campus, our adventures dining at the hotel with the handsome but clumsy waiter, the note slipped under our door that made us laugh, our shopping trips, and our room service dessert menu indulgence. I want to secure every detail, capture every moment, and perhaps I will return soon to this blog to document more of what was a beautifully significant trip with Emma, but today I'm feeling tender. Life feels tender. I am hit more with an urgency to declare my love for my daughter and our relationship than to sketch out each little detail of our few days in North Carolina.  

And BAM! There it is. As much as I want to remember the details of our trip together, the memories may surely fade. But what will not disappear is the love. The love will remain. Always. That's what I need to hold onto. I need to let go of fear that I, too, may someday be unable to recall my past. I need to remind myself that "the love remains", always, as I go to embrace my Mom and my Dad on our trip north next week.

"We write to taste life twice", Anais Nin wrote, "in the moment and in retrospection". It is through writing that I work to let go of any fears of what the future may hold. 

I first came upon these words of Anais Nin when I was finishing Sue Monk Kidd's book, Traveling with Pomegranates, a travelogue/memoir book Kidd wrote with her daughter Ann. It is a book I turn to often, despite having finished the book in 2011. Another new favorite quote of mine is a quote by George Sand, "The old woman I shall become will be quite different from the woman I am now. Another I is beginning". The quote is shared as Sue recalls seeing Picasso's Girl Before a Mirror at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. She writes, 

         "It portrays a young woman, haloed in light, gazing into an oval mirror. Her pink, 
          unblemished profile merges with a frontal view of her face that's painted in bright 
          yellow and shaped like a crescent moon. But the mirror is a wrinkle in time, and the 
          image staring back at her reveals the young woman not as she is, but how she will one 
         day be. The woman in the glass appears old and dark, her face shaded in violet and red, 
         her eyes grown hollow, her body beginning to shrink".

Sue and her daughter Ann discuss the artwork, sharing their ideas on what it all means and how the painting reminds Sue of a photograph taken of her own mother on her wedding day. The bride's mother was standing at her shoulder when the picture was taken and the mirror captures the old woman looking into the mirror and seeing the young woman's face. 

Like Sue Monk Kidd, I've returned from a travel adventure with my daughter, and I, too, am moved by the thought of my daughter someday becoming an adult and a mother herself. Emma too will someday travel with her own child, seeing her own reflection and that of her child's caught in the mirror or perhaps, following in my footsteps, in writing. So what would this older woman like to preserve more than the details of each trip taken with her children? Just in case, someday soon, "Another I is beginning"?

Dear Emma (and Sydney and Paul): It's not about the details of the journey, as fun as they are to recall. It's about the love. I'll be there to check in on you as you travel away from home, but if I don't, if I should someday forget to call or even know that you are away, please remember that the love remains. It never fades. Make the most of life. Soak in the sun. Hold on to the love, for it is love that will sustain us on every journey we have before us.  --Mom