Deja vu love

Home.

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.

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