The snow has finally melted on the Hudson Valley farm that Winona and Jammy call home these days. There are still some big snow piles around town but for the most part, the season is changing over and brightening after a long, cold winter. There’s even a hint of new growth peeking through if you’re really looking.
Trust me, I’m looking.
Today is her 18th birthday.
Which of course brings on the natural chorus of “Oh my, how time flies!” and “She was just a toddler a few years ago” and “My, don’t they grow up too fast!”. All of the usual run-of-the-mill proclamations that accompany a birthday of special significance.
And this year, since she’s living 308 miles away from home (though she may argue the concept of “home” now that she’s been gone for a month, fair enough), the exclamations marking the rapid passage of time are quickly followed by “So do you miss her?” or “Is it hard for you to have her be so far away?” or even “I bet she doesn’t even miss you!”.
Which I could take offense to, but I don’t. I’m keenly aware that she doesn’t miss me and I’m quick to add that frankly I don’t miss her too much either.
Because honestly, she loves what she’s doing, and at 18 that’s what matters most. She’s learning a lot and she loves her job. And I love mine too.
My job now is to carefully walk the tightrope between active mothering and interested observing, as the winds gust in a different direction each day. Teetering this way today, tottering that way tomorrow. It’s a balancing act with a hint of guessing game tossed in for good measure.
And besides, there are plenty of phone calls and texts and pictures between us every day. They keep us connected and help assuage my worry. Because even if I don’t miss her, I still do worry. That part is unavoidable I think.
Doug and I visited last weekend. She was neutral on us coming to see her, but we wanted to - we didn’t like the thought of her spending Easter alone.
But really, she’s anything but alone.
See this map here? It was drawn for her by another guest in the house. Win was in search of some new places to explore with Jammy, so Danielle drew her a very detailed map of the surrounding area, complete with editorial descriptions.
She marked all the important landmarks - the Hudson River, the A&P, the CVS, and the Rail Trail - the dog walking path Winona was in search of. And of course the place that has the best pizza. Clearly Danielle has her priorities in order.
But take a look at how she drew the farm - the home that she and Danielle share with several others. Just look at it.
That’s when having a daughter who is now 18 really sunk in for me. That heart drawn on the side of the house is what made mine skip a beat.
Not out of surprise, or out of sadness, or even out of wonder over where the time has gone. But rather out of pride and excitement and anticipation. Pride and excitement and anticipation for what she’s learning and who she’s becoming. Pride and excitement and anticipation for her. For me. For us. Particularly as we redefine who “us” is.
And then it sunk in that now there’s someone else drawing the maps for her, and that's okay. It feels pretty good in fact. I’m grateful for that map.
Not because she needs it to get around town - she’s got a GPS and a smart phone for that.
But because that little map is her life. And it’s a pretty wonderful map.
Happy 18th birthday, my love - I'm sending smiles and the sweetest of wishes your way!