This past week, my older daughter started her last year of middle school. My youngest daughter begins her last year of elementary school tomorrow.
While in many ways these are merely coincidence, and symbolic, they do mark the passage of time in our family’s life, something I am becoming increasingly aware of as my children inch away from me in to their independent lives.
“Mommy, I’m just calling to tell you goodnight and that I’m having a great time,” my 10-year-old said through the receiver during a recent summer night sleepover.
I was groggy having gone to bed an hour earlier. When I heard the phone ring, I had assumed it something bad, that either I was being called in to work, or my youngest was having separation anxiety and needed to come home.
“I love you. See you tomorrow,” she said cheerfully, click.
I pictured her smiling, cherubic face and sparkling blue-green eyes on the other end of the phone. I then lie fully awake in the darkness as my husband fumbled to return the receiver to the old-fashioned phone by the bed. I wondered when she grew up. Maybe it happened when I wasn’t looking.
“Can I take a picture of you?” I asked my oldest on her first day of eighth grade. At 5-foot-8, tan, with perfect shampoo-advertisement-hair (think 70’s Breck Girl) and a cute sundress and sandals, I couldn’t believe how beautiful she was. I wanted to preserve the moment. How did this happen so fast?
“Mom,” she whined. “No! You’re always trying to embarrass me. You’ll it send to everyone,” she said with good reason.
Having a mother who is a blogger, a memoirist and active in social media is a teenager’s worst nightmare. She finally relented. And yes, I did post it and send it to family members. The feedback was expected, When did she grow up? Did it happen overnight?
But I saw something else in her picture that no one else could possibly see. I saw the same face that smiled up at me when she was just six months old, a baby in my arms, comforted by our closeness.
Even if she couldn’t see it, I could. Mothers are the keepers of memories, the historians of their children’s stories and the silent witnesses to their passages…
Amanda is the mom of two, a reporter for WRAL-TV and the author of several books including three on motherhood. Find her here on Mondays.