When Daughters Leave

Mothers and daughters part and still live in each other’s heads like plants potted in the same rich bed. 

by Nancy Stanley • More.com Member { View Profile }

I have a daughter. She’s 18 now, but even at 5 she had the ironic style of a waitress at the truckstop café with an indignant hand on hip and a smoky voice that shouldn’t have come from her tiny throat. Other times, shiny blond hair flying like yellow streamers on a parade float, wearing purple capris and the Converses she coveted until she had more pairs than she remembered, she’d run onto the playground and far away from me until she was just a bright little stick figure and not my daughter at all.  

She tucked her comfort animal Holly under her arm as we rode the shuttle into Manhattan for the first time, and her mouth turned into a perfect "O" when we made that wide right turn onto the Brooklyn Bridge and up popped the skyline. Moments like that make you want to quit everything you do in your life and just watch her, every minute, for the rest of it.

I have a daughter who cooked her dying grandpa a breakfast he had no urge to eat but of course did, because she is a testament to his having lived, and because she tore the kitchen apart stirring up Bisquik batter and coring berries just for him.

And when she took the stage, the leading roles, and lit up like a lantern, and perfect strangers came over and told her she belonged there, she just smiled calmly, like “I know.”

After dance concerts, she would ask me how so-and-so did, and I could not remember there being another person on the whole stage, just my daughter, doing a tango or a leap or moving her graceful arms — and my heart went up and down with them, following as though there was a lead wire between us.

And then she wanted to leave, and I wanted her to go because that is the inexorable destiny of mothers and daughters, to part and still live inside each other’s heads, sometimes messily but sometimes as effortlessly as if we were plants potted in the same rich bed. 

I have a daughter whose life gives lie to the story that the parent does the teaching, the learning, the raising.  After a million moments, committed to muscle memory now, there is no question at all. I have a daughter. And I am so thankful for her.

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