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to be needed first

     Tonight as I scrape myself up from the shreds of holiday bliss and planning and cleaning and clearing, I have a back that still reminds me of my fall down the stairs and newly impeccable posture being the only thing that keeps me pain free. And into my laying-in-bed, reading by lamplight evening comes Maggie. 


A worry on her heart. Such a sweet face. Outsized and gorgeous in a face-just-grown-into kind of way. I see her braids, her mismatched pajamas, a hastily thrown on mismatched set. Red socks with snowflakes, a fuzzy Christmas present from her great aunt Katie. Gosh was I ever that young? Surely yes, but I hardly remember it now.

But then.

She starts to talk. Friends. Boys. And, ah yes I remember it now. It comes back in a hurry, those untried feelings of youth. The shakey hand on the wheel of a life not yet steered and a road not yet travelled.

Her face is a picture. Of hope, of earnestness. Anxious to please and soothe. But also stubborn. She knows well where she ends and others begin. All lessons learned the hard way. But good. So very, very good. I hug her when her eyes tear up and talk to her. And hug her again.

Gosh! Remember the first threads of these feelings? Desire to please, and yet a bone deep need to be pleased with the worth of yourself. I remember my, and all of our, steps into that rugged terrain of adolescence. Such joy and such confusion.

I say, "I'm sorry you have to..." I try to fashion the sentiment in a way that soothes, but then I realize it only ends one way--

"I'm sorry you have to...be fourteen."

She leans into me. Laughs. Cries. Sniffs.

"I know!" She wipes her eyes. A watery laugh, a beauty to behold. Strength through compassion. Beauty through courage.

"Can't I just skip to 35?!"

I said, "Oh, it isn't any better. Just more hearts crossed. More war stories to tell."

"And bills," she says and we both laugh.

If the gift of time is ours to claim, I know this will not be the first night of mom's-bed-conversations over tea and cocoa. But I count every moment as a gift. To be loved is a gift every single moment.

And so the moment ends. She's off to phone a friend for advice that will no doubt be better than mine.
But even as I watch her bound off the bed, her retreating back rounds the corner. The snick of the door closes and I hold the moment to myself a while longer.

With teenagers, and I remember my Will as well, we parents are not always needed the most. But I consider it to be highest honor of motherhood to be needed FIRST.

{originally published December 2018}


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