Paige was so proud of herself. We were reading the ladybug book, and as we turned to the last page, she said the single word she knew was there — home.
At17-months-old, she is just learning to talk. I didn’t even know she could say the word “home” when she made that connection between the spoken word and the written word. I probably would have thought it was a fluke if she hadn’t repeated it the next day and the day after that.
Each time, her face beamed with pride. I’ve seen that expression a hundred times or more on her mother’s face. Every time Sara learned a new skill. Every time she received a special gift. Every time she made a gift for me. Every time she accomplished something which brought her recognition.
To see the same expression on Paige’s face made my heart ache. I wanted to hold my little girl again.
The years went too fast. She was a baby and then a toddler who didn’t want help with anything. “Do it myself,” she would say. “Do it myself.”
Then she was a sister, and before long, taught herself to read so she could read to her little sister. When she started school, she was a challenge to her teacher because she already knew what other children were just learning.
Now she’s a major in the Air Force Reserves. How did that happen? Where did the years go?
I know. This isn’t original. Every parent has felt this way — at least, every parent who has loved a child. The day after Sara graduated from high school, she left for her summer job in another state; I cried for three days. When I took her to college that fall, I was crying so hard as I left campus that I got lost on the freeway system in Minneapolis-St. Paul.
Every rite of passage has been the same. College graduation. Her commissioning. Her wedding, when I knew that God had answered my prayers by bringing into her a life a man with a large and loving extended family, something I knew she needed.
When I watched “Mamma Mia!” the first time and heard the song, “Slipping Through My Fingers,” I both laughed and cried. The spark of recognition — yes, that’s what it is to be a mother when a daughter marries. The ache for every hope, every dream, every plan that wasn’t realized before that moment.
And now, when I watch her daughters, I see her. Sara thinks I give them too much attention when I visit. How could I not when they remind me so much of her? I watch Paige hunched over a book, turning pages, the hair at the nape of her neck curling into little ringlets, and I see both her and Sara at her age. I watch Avery dig into her food with both hands, using some of it as hair gel, and I see Sara doing the same thing.
When she was growing up, I was so busy. Going to college. Working. Trying to unravel the mess I’d made of my life after leaving home. I missed so much.
I’m going to miss even more with my grandgirls. The odds that I will win a Powerball jackpot are greater than the odds that Sara and Brodie will make a home near mine. And so I savor the opportunities I do have, hold them in my heart, treasure them.
I know Sara doesn’t understand this, but I find comfort in sitting in what I dubbed “the Gramma chair” in the room I called “Play Paradise,”and just watching the girls play. Sometimes reading a book at the same time, or knitting, but mostly just watching and remembering and loving. I don’t get a thing done, but that’s OK.
Loving them. Loving their mom. That’s enough. I can’t turn back time and do anything differently. I can’t be a better mom than I was, but I can still love her and love her precious, precious family.