Wings and Roots

Many years ago, 30 this morning, to be exact, I received a congratulations card while in the hospital after the birth of my baby girl, and on the cover it read, in pastel pink calligraphy, with little white birds flying about the clouds above a big green lush spring-bloomed tree, “There are two lasting gifts we can give our children, one is roots and the other is wings” and while I do not recall who brought me that card, I never have forgotten the words…How is it that what turned out to be one of the happiest days of my life is already thirty years gone?  And how is it that I managed, despite so many hardships and obstacles against me, to bestow both of these lasting gifts onto this beautiful child of mine?

If you have ever heard the song by Carole King called “Child of Mine” then you know the lyric “I don’t want to hold you back, I just want to watch you grow” and I have loved every minute, well almost every minute, of these three decades, watching this big bald baby blossom and burst into this long lovely lady.  When I look at her, or see photos of her, I think she’s one of the most beautiful women I have ever laid eyes on, and when I watch her love her own daughters, I see a beauty in her that is profoundly more magnificent than that which is on her outside…her love for her children is a deep as the ocean and as infinite as the universe, and sometimes when I watch their faces watching her, see their eyes light up when she enters the room, I think to myself, “I did that,” that I made this human who these other humans love so much…it’s just one of the most amazing feelings in the world, that I’ve got no simple words to describe…

She spread her wings at 18 when she flew away to North Carolina, and while there she made these two little girls, but she planted her roots when she moved back here to New Jersey, when she decided that she wanted her children to grow up with their family so near and so close, as she did.  She loves my parents more than maybe most women love their grandparents because frankly they did as much parenting as I, if not more so, during her youngest years; they helped me raise her, and that was a gift in her life and mine, to be sure.  That I get to now live next door to her and the children is one of the greatest blessings in my life, particularly when I speak to people who have children and grandchildren far away, and I wonder, how would I live or breathe without hearing their voices nearly every day, or seeing their faces almost every day?

I’ve read whimsical t-shirts and signs that say things like, if I knew grandchildren were this awesome, I would have had them first, and it’s true that the love you feel for the child of your child is extremely different from that of “mothering,” purer is a word that often comes to my mind, and I’ve said and written countless times that I had no idea I had THAT much love inside of me, until I loved these girls, but even so, what touches me most thoroughly about watching and experiencing my daughter as a mother, is seeing her loved so deeply and so completely by her children…I feel strong and confident and certain, when I see her loved by those girls, that I did a fine job raising that human, and it’s a present I get to receive every day of my life…

I have done everything in my power for my daughter that I could.  I thought of her before I thought of myself from the moment she took her first breath of air and was welcomed to this world.  In retrospect, I could have done many things better than I did, but I also could have done worse.  We grew up together in a way, that girl and I.  I knew from the beginning that I would never be able to give her the kind of childhood, or kind of life that I had, but I knew that I could do the next best thing, which was have my loving family close, and ‘in’ most every step of her life, and I needed them to help me, so we all were better for it…that whole “it takes a village” idea is a universal truth.  I laughed and read with her, comforted her and wiped her tears, scolded and praised her when either was required, and taught her everything I knew, and showed her what love is.   It’s said that there is no way to be a perfect mother, but that there are hundreds of ways to be a good one, and if I gave my daughter no other gift in her life than this, I would believe I did enough.  The love that I feel for that girl and her girls is, like the lamp in A Christmas Story, ‘indescribably beautiful;’  it mends me when I am broken, it feeds me when I am empty, in warms me when I am cold, it soothes me when I ache, it’s a restorative like no other, love like that…

My daughter is smart and my daughter is beautiful and my daughter is a good person.  A parent can’t really ask for much more than that in a human, and anybody would be lucky to have her as a friend and as a neighbor.  I get to have her as both, and I sometimes wonder how on earth I ever got so lucky?!  That she stretched her spine and arched her back and spread her wings when she felt like she needed to fly, made me feel like I had raised her right, although I thought my heart was breaking, when she first left, I also felt that my mothering made her brave and confident and fearless, and that I gave her those gifts was what strengthened me during the initial sadness of her absence…that she has planted and watered and sunned herself in such a way that she now has such sturdy deep roots beside me, is a gift she gives me in return…no wrapping or bows required…



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