|Source: Facebook page creeping|
While I waited for Chloe to arrive, I hid my fears by having Big Ideas. I would speak to her in French. We were going with cloth diapers. None of those nasty landfill cluttering disposables for our little cherub's perfect bottom. She would be as unfamiliar with McDonalds as a child born in 1850. Every day would be a new opportunity to expose her to rich language, images and music that would set her little synapses on fire, high culture. Television? Obviously not. I was going to make her baby food when she started eating solids. I was going to nurse her until she was old enough to speak in a full sentence to ask, "Mother, may I have some coffee with this milk, please?"
The big day came. She was born at exactly 1 p.m. which was when As the World Turns came on in Chicago and so I wouldn't get to see it that day. Dang it. After suffering the indignities of being cleaned and measured, the nurse deposited Chloe into my waiting arms. Instead of that picture perfect, tears springing to your eyes moment, all I remember is thinking that when she cried in my face, her breath smelled like my favorite turkey with mayo on rye.
By the time she was two weeks old, we'd developed a mother/child rhythm that included lots of lying on the bed while she alternately dozed and nursed and I watched a lot of Designing Women and old movies on AMC. I never spoke French to her and breastfeeding ceased well before she spoke in full sentences. When Chloe was six months old, we moved in with MathMan's sister Mary and her family and suddenly Chloe's circle of influence exploded. She began clicking through the milestones so fast I could barely keep her baby book up to date. It wasn't just Mother and Daddy celebrating the firsts. It was a roomful of adults and two adolescents. Chloe found her first audience.
Although I'd failed to follow through on speaking French or daily visits to some museum, library or opera, I did manage to shield my precious darling from the evils of fast food. Her babysitter Joan introduced her to McDonald's and I only found out when we were driving by the Golden Arches and Chloe chirped from her carseat in the back "Frenfry Coke!"
Recently, as I was cleaning out the garage, I found the Rubbermaid container holding all the Happy Meal toys we collected over the years. Big ideas.
The only synapse stimulating happened when MathMan, who worked horrifically long hours at a Radio Shack back then, took Chloe on his lap and read to her from his college Trigonometry and Calculus text books. I was teaching her that the cow goes moo and Daddy was teaching her about sign and co-sign. I'm not even sure I typed that correctly, but the hell with it. MathMan can't spell definitely correctly so we're even-ish.
And now she's turning twenty. I am so proud of this girl who, despite my housecat-like mothering skills, has grown into an intelligent, thinking, creative, beautiful and funny woman. She's now blogging so you might get glimpses of her side of things. I read her posts and I'm quite blown away by her writing skills. I'm also a little miffed that she refers to me as Mother, but then the truth is she does call me Mother. She's embraced the southernism of calling her father Daddy, and I am Mother. It's a little weird. My mother always called my grammie Mother. I suppose Chloe could call me much worse.
When Chloe was little and still an only child and MathMan was working those long hours, she and I spent a lot of time together. We played together or she played alone near me as I did things around the house. We played lots of dress up. Well, she did. I applauded her quite a bit.
Every once in a while, I ask her if she remembers something specific like when we would go to the beach in Evanston where she would play on the shore and we'd build sand castles and then she'd run back and forth from the water to me where I sat on a folding lawn chair sometimes smoking and reading books like Anais Nin's biography. To me the memories are still so fresh. To her, they're fuzzy although she remembers that I used to hold Barbie on the steering wheel of our car and let her drive. Maybe she remembers other things? The sentence usually ends with an upward inflection. That's okay. I remember for the both of us.
It's still hard to accept the fact that Chloe is going to turn twenty on Friday. We talk about political systems and Jane Austen characters. We look for lost books and laugh at the same scenes in Upstairs Downstairs. She recommends books to me. She still falls down and I hug her - oftentimes now, figuratively - and try to make it better even when I can't or shouldn't. I'm learning to balance holding on and letting go.
I can't help but think that at her age, I was working full time and going to school and living with Craig and sorta kinda lying to my parents about it. Within five years, I'd be a mother. Now that's a scary thought.
I've made it clear to our kids that, given the opportunity, I intend to be the best grandmother ever. However I am in no rush to get there. Thankfully, Chloe seems to be on a different life timeline than I was at her age. She has plans that don't include getting married and having babies. I've heard noises about a dog and cat and a nice Jewish boy who plays football for an SEC school and will be making bushels of money when he gets out of school (does he exist?), but no serious talk of marriage and babies.
For that I am grateful because I still have a lot of growing up to do myself.