When I was my oldest daughter’s age, I was running off on Friday nights each week to attend a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Music! Costumes! Bad acting! And overt sexuality which, at that time in my naive existence, was just salacious enough to make me feel naughty but not bad enough to scandalize me. It also caused me to knock my weekly RHPS habit as soon as my mother suggested she might go with me. Of course, my mother would not have thought it was a Big Deal. But until I got to know her better as an adult, I didn’t know that.
My daughter donned her cap and gown and stood with the rest of the senior class at a school assembly today. She wasn’t seated alphabetically like the rest of them – in fact, she was on the last aisle of chairs sitting alone. She won’t be attending the commencement ceremony Saturday night because she is still working to complete her final class online. Also, because she’s sure that her current situation (being in her 3rd trimester of pregnancy) would cause her some pretty serious discomfort if she had to sit in a folding chair for a couple of hours. (But, mostly because of the unfinished class.)
“In the velvet darkness
Of the blackest night
There’s a guiding star
No matter what or who you are.”
I felt so proud that she is finally going to be done with what has been, at the best of times, a very difficult scholastic career. And at the same time, I was unbearably sad. It brought me to tears that were almost uncontrollable to watch her standing on the last row, in a room full of peers but so not a part of the spirit of the moment. As the school song was sung, and the rest of the students all threw their arms around each others’ shoulders and swayed back and forth in what was obviously a group action they did at pep rallies and such… Delaney stood alone.
When I asked her later why she didn’t just step forward and latch on to the students on the row in front of her, she just shrugged. I don’t know if it bothers her to not feel a part of the group, or if it just doesn’t occur to her to make herself a part. And I don’t know which of those possibilities bothers me more – that she may not think of it, or that it does bother her but she won’t acknowledge it. Either way, the moment was heartbreaking. I think of all of the ways life can be difficult, and how she may never feel like she fits in. Worse, she may not know when she has the chance to make things different – easier perhaps – and the opportunity will pass her by.
At the assembly, one of the teachers gave a speech that focused on the need for plans in one’s life, and also for the need to be able to change those plans when opportunities, tragedies, or just unexpected events come along. Which led me to silently offer up a little “thank you” to the powers that put that speech in that teacher’s head. It was, I hope with all my Mother-Soul a speech that will stay with my daughter for a long time.
What’s interesting, though, is that it’s not the “be flexible” part of the speech that I hope sticks with her – although it’s a valuable lesson. I actually want her to get something out of the Make Plans part. Unlike many of her peers sitting in the gym with her today, she certainly didn’t think about where to go to college or what her major will be… there was no way that college would be an option with the grades she (barely) maintained for the last few years. I don’t know how seriously she has considered a potential career path either… I know she doesn’t say or do anything that makes me think she gives it much thought. And now that she’s going to be a mommy in a couple of months, any plans she had been making in her head have definitely had to be put on hold.
The part about being flexible was definitely aimed straight at me. The last couple of years have left me pretty sure that making plans is potentially a futile exercise. But I suppose I can agree that if I can change those plans and make the best of what’s handed to me, my life is still successful. The support and love I give to my daughter right now is certainly more important than any idea I had to sew more or write more this year. Selling a few more tote bags won’t have nearly the impact of making sure my daughter and her daughter have a good start on their life together. Today’s words were a good reminder.
As good as I feel about my mothering skills and parenting decisions, my mother is desperately missed at times like this.