This morning, Aviva and I walked to town. We stopped in Hastings, the stationary store I’ve been going to for decades. (If it ever closes, I will have to light a candle or something.) I bought a ream of printer paper, though the printer now won’t work. And a notebook for her, to keep her papers in for community college, where she’s enrolling next year as a high school sophomore.
The sky was blue and spring is early still, so the sun and birds and newly green tips of trees are nothing shy of thrilling. By the time we left Hastings, I tied my sweatshirt around my waist and felt comfortable wearing just a t-shirt. We bumped into an old friend of my mom’s with her very excited chocolate lab, whose name we learned was Bella.
After Bella calmed down, we chatted with my mom’s friend for a minute. V smiled and nodded the way you do in a foreign culture or country where you have no idea what’s going on and don’t speak the language.
After we parted, Aviva sighed and said she’d rather just not even tell people, meaning what she’s doing school-wise. I get it, the not wanting to explain or navigate other people’s questions. I know I’ve felt that way in the past any time I went off the beaten path, which was frequent enough that I learned how much to share and what not to bother with. When people say, “How are you?” they aren’t usually really asking.
We reached the corner and stood there for a few minutes waiting for a walk signal, with her leaning up against the lamppost. I squeezed the back of her neck, the spot where I know she desperately wants a hamsa tattoo and is waiting for my answer about whether I’ll allow this when she’s 16.
She looked up at the sky. “Whoa, look at that plane. It looks like a ghost,” she said. I saw what she meant; its white against the flat blue sky looked like a paper cut-out or an fading mirage. I scanned the clouds for shapes, but what I noticed instead was my daughter’s eye makeup, so expertly applied, and her big silver hoops earrings, and how completely her own person she has become and really always has been.
“I love being your mama,” I told her, eliciting a “whyyyy?” in the slightly exasperated tone that tells you this is not an unusual exchange for us. “It’s just trippy,” answered. “You are this whole other amazing person.”
We lingered there another minute before the light changed. “Bye, Mama,” she said. “Bye, love you, have a good afternoon.” And that was that.
I watched her cross the street, something that once a long time ago would’ve been a big deal, then walked home down the hill carring my printer paper the way I once carried her, looking up at the ever-changing shapes of clouds.
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