The Road Map

She lets go of my hand and breaks into a run as we reach the theatre.

“Bye Mum”.

I do not take the hint. I hang around the entrance and watch as she picks up her scripts and makes her way towards her seat. A group of “big girls” troops in after me.  Miss A has changed classes this term, she is now in their drama group.

They settle down a few seats away from her and start reading from their script.  She looks at them, then at her script and tries to find the right page. Alone in the second row, by herself. Dressed in a pink blazer, her hair pushed by a giant hairband. A bottle of water next to her.

I wave and ask her to join me outside for a second.

“Mummm, please go. I am fine.”

“A, do you know anyone here at all? Should I hang around?”

“Noooo. You can go. I need to get back.”

“Bubs, are you going to be okay sitting by yourself?”

“Yeah, of course. Because we are all in the play together. And I am new here – so, of course I do not know anyone yet.”

“Maybe Mummy could sit with you for a  bit.”

“Mummmm, please. That would be so embarassing”.  That is the thing about love, baby. It can be embarassing.

So. I bend down and kiss her. And allow her to push me gently as she goes back. To sit by herself in the second row. Alone, did I say alone? I drive back home and stare at the clock. All this while my heart is doing somersaults and sinking lower.

She troops out behind the other kids when I go for the pick-up. Outside the winds are howling, the night is cold and the sky is sullen and inky. I help her with a thick coat and hold her hand as we walk back to the car.

“Was it okay?”

“It was great.”

“Umm, did you talk to anyone?”

“Yeah, Mary talked to me. She said I had a nice hairband.”

“Was it bad sitting alone?”

“Nah, I forgot about it after a while.”

“Are the big girls nice?”

“Very nice Mummy. They let me read the big parts.”

She seems eager to go back the next week. Next friday,we go through the motions of kissing and reminders about water bottles. She sits alone by herself like the week before. I smile and wave. Why didn’t Mary (and which one is Mary) sit next to her? When she will have friends to giggle with? But she seems to be lost in her script and the doors are closing and Mr D, the drama teacher is already up on the stage. So I leave her to do her part.

And bit by bit, I learn to gather the pieces of my heart and take them with me when I leave. Bit by bit, I walk back a step and then another and yet another. Bit by bit, I learn to trust that she will take care of herself.

She is a child with a stuffed toy named Piggy. She hates runny eggs. She plays the viola. She doesn’t have a sweet tooth. Her best friend has just moved across the country. She smiles in her sleep. But. And yet. She sits by herself and reads her lines. She blends in a group of strangers and falls into place. She takes cues and share the stage with people she has not met before. Somedays, she is more than the sum of her parts. Somedays there is so much more to her that I do not know about.

Somedays my daughter surprises me because I forget to see her spirit, her heart, her art – all I see is a little smiley face, her warm hand in mine, a pair of footsteps following mine through streets lined with the produce of autumn.

“My turn to come up with an act next week”, she tells me as I pick her up. “Mary and Jessica are hoping they get a part”. New names and such old ease. The circle has widened. It always does, but you have to wait sometimes.

And just like that I know that if she is to act the best scenes, write the stories that will shape her, find the characters that will mould her – I have to let her go. And let her grow. I have to let her sit alone on some days. I have to wait on the outer while she find her way into new friendships. I have to wait till she fails because I cannot be the substitute to her experiences. Some things, she will learn on her own. Some things, she will only learn when I trust her and let her read the map.

“I am going to give you the road map. But find your own road”, my father always tells me. Somedays you got to hand those lessons forward.

My heart does somersaults again. But this time, it does not sink. I think they call this floating.

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The House Of Quilts

As I write this, Miss A has set up camp in the family room. She has draped a giant quilt over two chairs and claims she has moved into her new home. A pack of muffins and a couple of stuffed toys share her current dwelling.  She has two handbags and two hats – clearly, one needs to be ready in case fancy dinner invites come a-calling. She also has a phone in case I need to call her. No, I cannot just go door-knocking – and not just because the house of quilts and chairs doesn’t have a door.

I have drafts to re-edit, a presentation to put together and a whole bunch of socks to wash. Acutally, the socks are more important at this point in time, but we will let that pass. The point of sharing my laundry details with you (note to self: resist puns about dirty linen) is that I have heaps to do and I should be happy that she has moved into her little tent for the day. But I am not. Already, I have crawled into her tent a few times and have been firmly and politely pushed out.

“Come and have lunch”, I say.

“Not now”, she says. “I am not hungry, Mum”

“Do you want a snack?” I ask

“I have the muffins”, she says. The muffins are from the bag she packed yesterday when she told me she was running away because I made her practice her viola. Yes, that is fodder for another post. It was raining and she kind of loves her viola, so she agreed to come back inside.

So, I call her on the fake phone. Except, she asks me to leave a message. Because she is getting ready to take the stuffed toys out for the the day and she cannot talk to me right now.

I follow her around the house, moping a tad.

“Maybe you could mind my house for me” she suggests. Because she is busy and stopping to talk to me every now and then is slowing her down.

I am the keeper of her memories,the guardian of her dreams, the keycode to her likes and hates. I am the official demon that makes her repeat her times tables and the homework nazi that makes her rub out words that are not spelt correctly the first time. Some days I am little else other than being the wrapper around her world.

One day she will have her own world with real doors. And I will have to knock. Or call. Perhaps I will offer muffins on these days in the future when my daughter is no longer camping out under the same roof in another part of this very room.

But now and here, when she asks to mind her house, I leave my drafts and my laundry and my Sunday lunch and offer to move into her tent.

“No, you don’t need to do that”, she explains with much genteel patience lacing her voice. “Look after the house from where you are.”.

And so, perched on the couch, alternating between work and words and things bubbling and hissing on the stove, with the May winds whipping up a gale outside, I look after the little world she has created for herself while she explores her surrounds. 

“Are you going to be long?”, I ask her.

“You can go and do something else if you like, Mum” she says.

There is nowhere else I would rather be. She doesn’t know it but that tent is my house too. Because my heart follows her around like that. One of those days when I am little else other than the wrapper that makes up her world. One of the good days.