My daughter Catherine turned seventeen yesterday.
Catherine is smart and very funny, disciplined in her studies, and she is kind. Last year, when I really wondered whether I would survive the cancer, I felt calm when I thought about Catherine. I knew she was on “her path.” And that even without me, she would be fine.
Catherine is my best. The best. Nothing I have done with my fifty years compares. To reach this point fills me with a deep sense of calm and well-being.
I have been an unlikely mother. I often think of Kate Chopin’s Awakening:
“The mother-women seemed to prevail that summer at Grand Isle. It was easy to know them, fluttering about with extended, protecting wings when any harm, real or imaginary, threatened their precious brood. They were women who idolized their children, worshiped their husbands, and esteemed it a holy privilege to efface themselves as individuals and grow wings as ministering angels.”
This was not me. I am more similar to Edna, who ended up walking into the surf to drown rather than choosing to live a life where she could not be independent.
I struggled in the baby years. I felt that I had lost myself, that Ann had disappeared.
In my teens, I was the diligent student. In my twenties, on my first solo trip to Europe, I fell deeply in love with life and travel. In my truest, deepest nature I am a curious, restless seeker. Exploration and discovery, of myself, the world, thoughts, and the meeting and knowing of people — ah, I could give my life to this! And so much of my twenties were devoted to travel and adventure. I grabbed up life in big armfuls and held it close.
In order to have my daughter, I had to let go of those things for many years.
Thankfully, that has changed. Catherine and I make trips together, and I now travel solo again. A summer school month in Florence, Italy, transformed Catherine into a self-confident traveler in her own right.
As Catherine and I point towards her final year and a half of high school and we both move towards new chapters of life.
She sat snuggled up with me this morning, having her coffee while I had mine, before she got dressed and drove herself to school. These are the moments that make the whole journey worthwhile.
To my beautiful daughter on her seventeenth birthday — what can I say? You are one of my favorite people in all of the world.
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