Dreamer spreads her wings
Each day is filled with wonder
Watch her as she flies
Yesterday, she was a baby. I blinked, and today she is a witty, intelligent, creative friend and helper. She makes omelettes, and mac & cheese; she has great ideas, and surprises me daily. Motherhood has transformed from the panic-stricken act of fulfilling every need, to supervision and guidance. I see the differences between us, and celebrate them with her. These days when I make a photograph of the two of us, she expects (and is usually granted) input.
Thanks to National Poetry Month, my Mother's Day present from Louise this year is an anthology of poems that she wrote at school. They are precious to me, of course, and offer me a glimpse inside her mind that I don't normally see. Poetry Month also gifted me with the chance to encourage and inspire more writing from her: when I suggested she write cinquains to accompany my cyanotypes, she jumped at the chance and produced one after another. I dug out all the poetry books I bought when she was younger, the ones she was never interested in before, and have read them all to her at bedtime. That well having run dry, I decided to fish out a book of my own poetry (yikes) from 20 years ago.
Twenty years. A lifetime for some - half my own lifespan right now. I haven't looked at that book in two decades, but as I read the work to her I remembered the circumstances that provided the impetus for putting pencil to paper. Louise was rapt (believe me, they are hardly award winners) and asked me why I quit writing. The honest answer was one I'm not prepared to give her: too much harsh, offhand criticism from someone in my life that meant everything to me at the time. Beware, critics. You never know what fire you might be spitting on, and putting out.
The next night, after a "poetry class" at the kitchen table - her teaching me about concrete poems, diamantes, etc - it was time for another bedtime reading. For this one I plucked a book of The Essential Browning off the shelf, one I again had not touched in many years, expecting it to be Elizabeth Barrett. Instead, it was Robert, and inside we found an inscription from the wonderful woman who gave it to me, for my high school graduation.
As a book binder, my father sometimes met writers who self published small batches of books, which is how I ended up meeting Clara Lacy Fentress. She was a kind, gracious mentor with a lighthearted, joyful attitude, whose encouragement I wish I had managed to carry with me for longer. Also inside the book was a letter from her and two photographs of me at her house. I thought they were hilarious - look at me! look at that outfit oh my goodness - Louise couldn't put them down. "You look like a teenager!!" I told her I was a teenager. Past, meet present.
Could I have imagined, that day, in Mrs. Fentress' parlor, that eventually I would have a daughter? I remember she had a cat who would promptly make itself comfortable on my lap; me, allergic, always laughed about it, and now here I am with two cats in my house. I'm not sure that Louise could articulate her own thoughts and feelings, but she must have had plenty of them because she looked at the photographs for a long time.
So we as mothers are always living in two worlds. Raising my own child in Texas, just an hour or so away from where I grew up, I am often assailed with memories of my own childhood. The light, the scent of outdoors through the windows, they are portals to another time, but also part of this time and this reality, her reality. Our lives are woven into a continuous strand.
Our journey together, so far, spans 9, nearly 10, years: three "homes," two states, lots of huge changes. We are both headed for new phases in our lives: growing phases. While we are different, we are also the same; just as she mourns the grey hairs on my head, my heart flutters at the knowledge that in another blink of an eye she will be a woman.