Umbilicus Removus

If I had my druthers, this is how a recent conversation with my 20 year-old daughter, Samantha, would have played out:

Sam: Oh, most beautiful mother in the entire world, I have been asked by a friend to take a trip to sunny southern California for a week after Christmas. Have you lost weight? By the way, this friend is paying for the round-trip ticket. May I go?

Me: Is there a ticket for me also?

Sam: Of course! I would never go anywhere without you—you are my best friend. By the way, your hair looks especially lovely today.

Me: Then let’s book the tanning booth and starve ourselves until take off, oh dutiful, obedient, and loving daughter of mine.

Sam is my baby—the youngest of my three daughters. After having my first two children before I reached the age of 22, it was another seven years before I had Sam—nine months to the day before my 30th birthday. The wait was due both to my divorce and to careful planning after I had remarried at age 28.

I don’t know if I was a better mother at 29 than I was at 19, but I was certainly calmer. By that age, and after two other children, it took quite a bit more than projectile vomiting or a bean stuck in the child’s nose to rattle me.

As Sam’s mom—the woman umbilically-bound to her for 40 weeks who labored painfully for 36 hours to bring her into this world, nearly died, and had to have her cut from my poor, exhausted body (not that I am complaining or trying to heap any guilt on you, Sam)—I have to brag on her a bit.

Sam slept through the night at three weeks, weaned herself off the bottle (throwing it against a wall in a fit of pique) at nine months, potty-trained herself (read: pulled off her diaper and ran around naked refusing to let anyone re-diaper her) and learned to walk (hence the running from the diaper-wielding foe) at 11 months, and invented the Internet at 13 months.

Sam has always been incredibly smart and very independent. I was proud of her accomplishments at such an early age, but I was also a wee bit sad, because the more she learned, the less she needed me.

Oh, there were times when she did need me desperately. In 1992, when she was four-years-old, she needed me to give her “big hair like Mommy’s” before she went to church Easter Sunday. She needed me to watch attentively and listen rapturously when she rode her new big girl bike over the speed bumps in the parking lot of our apartment, singing at the top of her lungs “Booty and the Beee-eeeast” (the last word always punctuated by the speed bump maneuver, which cracked her up). She needed me to buy her a “cimmenem” roll at McDonalds in the morning before I dropped her at the sitter’s home. She needed me to sing Achy Breaky Heart with her at the top of our lungs on our long trips from our home in Norwalk, Ohio, to her dad’s house in Independence, Kentucky, every other weekend.

Sam would not need me again until it was time to buy her first homecoming dress. The only reason she needed me at that time was because she and her friends were too young to drive (they were all 14), and they needed to go to Eastgate Mall to shop. Of course, I was not to be seen with them, I was to wait at the food court being terrorized by a mime until she and her friends were ready for me to chauffeur them home.

Later she would need me, briefly, to fill out the mountain of financial forms for her first year of college.

In 2006, the invisible umbilical cord—that tug in my heart every time my daughter left my sight—was stretched even further when Sam left for her first year of college. Helping her unpack in her dorm room at Xavier University, I realized that I would no longer hear her voice every single day, she would no longer be walking in the door at night, throwing down, first her purse, and then herself on my lap (whooomf) so she could tell me all about her day while I scratched her back or brushed her hair. We would no longer have our weekly DAY-DAYDAY of BEAUTY-BEAUTYBEAUTY! (we always imitated the voice-over guy on the monster-truck rally commercials when we said that phrase) on Sunday afternoons when we would do each other’s hair, nails, and makeup—a tradition with us since she was five-years-old (imagine me with every color of the rainbow on my face and a dozen teeny-tiny, sparkly barrettes in my hair and orange Day-Glo® nail polish covering all of my cuticles and halfway to my knuckles). But I consoled myself with the knowledge that she was only about a 30 minute drive away from me.

However, a few weeks ago, the California conversation occurred. This is how it actually went:

Sam: MOM! (Yes, that was uttered in a loud squeal) He called me! He wants me to come and visit him in California! On the Marine base! He told me to book a flight—he is paying for it—and he’s going to show me around California! He asked me what I wanted to see first and I said, “The Hollywood sign!” And he said, “The Hollywood sign?” And I said, “Yeah, you know those big white letters on the side of the hill?” And he laughed. I am so excited, Mom. (deep breath here) Isn’t that exciting?

And over the loud thwap thwap thwap sound of the umbilical cord detaching itself from between my baby daughter and me and winding back into my body, I said:

“Yes, Sam. That is very exciting. You’ll have a wonderful time.”*

* Sam left for California this morning. I have found consolation, not only in the fact that she is responsible and trustworthy and has been friends with this young man since she was 14 when he came home for a visit during his first tour in Iraq, but also in the fact that her dad, with whom she is very close, has been, admirably, nearly apoplectic with worry over this trip, and driving Sam bonkers. That is, after all, what a father is supposed to do with his little girl. It makes up for the fact that I was umbilically-bound to her for 40 weeks, labored painfully for 36 hours to bring her into this world, nearly died, and had to have her cut from my poor, exhausted body (not that I am complaining or trying to heap any guilt on you, Sam).

Published in: on January 1, 2009 at 1:07 am  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. We have so much in common, I cannot believe it. Reading a few of your posts was a pleasure and like looking at my reflection. Loved your post about your 20yr old daughter. My eldest is 19…I could have written your second half myself…lol.I enjoy networking with other fellow writers.Have a wonderful day.Jo-Anne Vandermeulen“Conquer All Obstacles”Prolific Writer of Romantic Fiction

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