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...over-educated and under-experienced, or so they say...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Hope -- My Best Little Friend

She leaves for her dad's tomorrow. It's summer break now, and this is how it goes. She'll be gone until August, and my heart hurts.

She's my best little friend. I tell her that all the time. I think the first time I said it to her she wasn't quite three. She was making me laugh as I tucked her into bed and she was just so cute and so much fun to be with, I hugged her and kissed her and said, "You're my best little friend," and she responded, "you're my best big friend."

In my card, this past Mother's Day, she wrote, "I love you more than anyone on Earth! I know you will always be there for me in the hard times, and I will be there for you too! I love you, Mom!" After I read it, I held her tight and held in a few tears. To some, reading that may evoke little more than an "Oh, how sweet," but for me, knowing all we've been through over the past ten years, I couldn't help but wonder if that little mind of hers knows or understands how many hard times she's already helped me through.

At a time when I thought I had lost it all and sat in my own mother's living room crying, I remember my 15 month old daughter, seeing my tears, gave me her blanky because she knew it would comfort me. And I remember a smile coming to my face through the tears, not because of the blanky but because of the love and concern she showed me at that moment. And some months later, when she had learned to talk a bit more, I stood in the kitchen talking to my mother about some of the things that troubled me, paying no mind to the toddler in the high chair who suddenly reached out for me and said, "Don't worry, Mimi. Don't worry..." And I remember looking at her sweet little face, dumb founded, and trying to convince myself there was no possible way a child that young could make enough sense of what I was saying to know that I needed assurance that all would be well. (Obviously, I've never forgotten that moment.)

I'm not sure she realizes that it was her little face in the window, watching me walk out to the car as I left her at Papa's and Grandma's to go to school and finish my degree, that drove me to succeed. And I doubt she knows that every night when she ran to me, smiling and laughing out of sheer joy for my return home, made every drop of blood, sweat, and tears worth it.

As cool as she thinks it is, I'm pretty sure she has no idea that she was the main reason I ever set foot in a martial arts school -- because everywhere I went, I was a young woman alone with a baby and a vulnerable target for predators of all shapes and sizes, and I wanted to be confident in my ability to defend her precious little life, as well as my own (which is precious to her), and these small little spaces we've called home.

I'm absolutely certain she has no idea that the reason I sat down in that therapist's office and bore my soul, exposing every wound, every dark and hideous corner of my mind, and placed them directly in front of me so I could see clearly, call it like it is, and heal and change myself is because she deserved nothing but the best from me.

And in the most difficult times of them all, when I felt completely broken and unable to move, it was her fresh eyes looking at the world around her and the life she was so excited to live that gave me purpose and a reason to rise above.

I'm sure she has no idea.

A few months back we were driving home from school and talking about her future -- college and graduate school (yes, we talk about that "already" and we've been talking about that since she was five), and the sweet little one said, "If you didn't have me, maybe you'd have your PhD right now." I simply looked at her and said, "If I didn't have you, I'm not sure I'd be alive right now." She looked at me as if to gauge my level of sincerity. I smiled at her and said, "I'm not lying. I don't miss the PhD. I'm happy with who Ive become, who I continue to become, and if I didn't have you I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be the woman I am right now. And, like I said, I'm not sure I'd be alive either." I could see the wheels turning in her head, but she finally smiled and took my hand as I told her, "I mean it. You're my best little friend." She squeezed my hand and replied, "And you're my best big friend, Mama."

I will miss her this summer... my best little friend. I already do.

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