Some time ago, someone commented to me that every mother needs another woman whose children are older (and whose children you like) to serve as a mentor and role model. I am so very, very blessed to have had at least one such woman in my life (beyond my own mama, of course).
Almost five years ago, I started teaching cello lessons to a young girl named Emily. Over the next few years, Emily, her mom Amy, and their entire family became a special part of our lives. They were the first non-family members we ever left James with. Amy took me on my first thrifting adventure. (Our well-loved bread machine was actually one of Amy's amazing thrifting scores, which she shared with me!) They have since moved away and we miss them dearly, but I will always consider myself very blessed to have had a woman like Amy in my life: an experienced mother that I could look to as an example when I was feeling unsure.
So, I immediately said yes when Amy offered to do a guest post for me. She blogs here, so please pay her a visit. She really is a beautiful, whole mama.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
This past June, my then-fifteen-year-old daughter, Emily, and I drove 2000 miles to Maine for a "writer’s retreat". She was to work on her songwriting and I was to work on a mothering book. Dad was out of work and had spent several weeks in England visiting his father, so offered to take care of the other five children while we worked interruption-and peanut butter sandwich-free for the better part of a month.
A few years ago, I could never have imagined someday taking, or wanting to take such a trip. Em was one of those high-energy, bouncing off the walls sort of kids. She ran away from me at the grocery store. She refused to sit for a story. She escaped from Sunday school—twice. She even got away from me in church one time and crawled all the way to the front of the sanctuary under the pews. I marveled at my friends who seemed to enjoy their children and wondered why I, despite the fact I desperately loved my daughter, struggled with enjoying her.
But life has a way of mellowing both daughter and mother, and though it took many years, we, on the cusp of those fragile teenage years, when many mothers and daughters are going their separate ways, surprisingly, and delightfully, started to find camaraderie with each other.
The landlady who rented us the "Lilac Place", a lavender cottage just a short walk from the Penobscot Bay told us that she, too, had taken her eldest daughter on a special trip when she was sixteen. She was thrilled to see us doing the same and certainly she overheard lots of talking, singing, movie watching, and laughter, especially the day we completely smoked out the house with our botched attempt at laying a fire in the wood stove.
While in Maine, we ate picnic lunches at the base of pristine lighthouses. We found one of Maine’s rare sandy beaches just minutes from the cottage and spent hours in our swimsuits, silently working next to each other, taking silly pictures and comparing white legs and our breast sizes (I didn’t win in either category). We devoured lobster on the Passagassawakeag River. We lit candles on the many cold, rainy days and snuggled on the couch in heavy quilts, it being a summer cottage with no central heating (thus, the fire attempts). We ate homemade calzones oozing with melted cheese and made shortcake with locally farmed ruby red strawberries and freshly whipped cream. We walked in the driving rain, skipped rocks, climbed to the top of Maiden’s Cliff where legend has it a 12-year-old girl, on a family outing, fell to her death trying to catch her bonnet. We went to a concert at the tiny church across the street and laughed until we almost wet ourselves when, in the course of whistling loudly, I spit my chewing gum across the sanctuary. And every night, we snuggled together in the same bed, just trying to get warm, talking about boys and life and love and God.
Twenty-nine hours, 38 dead deer, and multiple McDonald’s stops later, we arrived home. The chaos and noise were still there. We hadn’t solved the world’s problems, but we had, for the first time ever, experiences that were ours alone, funnies no one else in the family knew about, private things between just the two of us.
Even now, we carry these, secreted in our hearts, tucked in beside fat memories and lobster dreams, among the shortcakes and the picnics, the hikes and the songs. That time was precious, like things are when you know they may never happen again, a time I hope will be a beacon of light and hope to this girl of mine, if -- or when -- her road ever grows rough.