Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Our Girl in Cape Town

She is sleeping now, this daughter of mine with whom I wait in airports, holding hands and saying goodbye--tears and joy our now-familiar mix.  A world away in summer, in Africa, while I contemplate once again the gift of her life.

The breakup of a family means many things, most of them a grueling kind of sorrow.  Yet, like any trial by fire, what rises is lasting treasure, a gold refined to its very essence.  I see all of my children gleaming in the sunlight and brushing ashes from their hair and shoulders.  But right now, today, there is just one story to tell.

She is extraordinary, this one.  Her first grade soccer coach called her The Pit Bull and yet when she wasn't demolishing opponents she was picking daisies, skipping downfield and tending to scrapes on the sidelines.  Over and over we moved.  Changing schools like so many cardigan sweaters yet each time she managed to find her way to the dearest friends, attracting loyalty and kindness with a gentle nature anchored in steel.  Unknown at the beginning and beloved at the end, every single time.

How astonishing that such friendship would be mine as well.  Too cautious for my own good, I put up walls around my heart, fearful that my children would feel overly responsible for my joy and knowing that they were working hard enough to hang on to their own.  But at some point in her freshman year of college Mary Glen shared that she'd told someone I was her best friend and all I could think was, Me?  It was the first chink in my armor.  Piece by piece we tore down the walls of parent and child and rebuilt ancient ruins, cities long devastated, until what was between us was so dear I could not have imagined it to exist.  She is, as Kris says, the closest witness to my life, total honesty and intimate secrets sandwiched between the hilarity of daily life and the binding cement of a hard journey walked together.

She adores Friday Night Lights and old Alias, and Slings and Arrows.  She has loved and lost, and loved and loved, growing and maturing so that life does not carry the same mistakes back to her doorstep, but instead the best kind of man.  She keeps a list of quotes on her wall a la Franny and Zooey and every time I read them I feel the deepest kind of joy to know such a soul so intimately. And perhaps most amazing of all, she has not only opened up her life to me, but offered up her friends as well, willing us to know each other, pushing me past my reticence to an entirely new life.

She is the woman I always wanted to be.

But for the next three months, she is on the other side of the world.   And even in an age of technology, tonight it's just a bit too far.   I'm counting on gratitude traveling fast.


  1. I don't think I could let them go. I plan on locking them in the basement and offering cut-up hit dogs on a garden rake through the egress window.
    Wonderful travels, Mary Glen, and a wonderful journey, Kate!