N is just about done with her first week in Bilbao, Spain. I can’t tell exactly how it’s going– but we adults seem to want to categorize things simply and I think it’s complicated. She’s really sick with either allergies or a sinus infection– I can’t really tell what’s going on exactly, but I can tell she feels kind of lousy but not so lousy that she stops doing all the stuff they are doing each day. When I see the photos that come through she seems like she is really enjoying herself. But also on one night mid-week she texted me– very early in the morning in Spain– too early to be awake– and said, “I feel so, so bad, Mama. Can I come home now?” So, I think it’s both, a great and awesome trip and a trip that is hard and challenging in different ways. I get confused, but I am moving toward understanding that it may be hard, but it is not too hard for her to handle. She doesn’t need someone to rescue her, but it’s good she can show me that it’s very hard some of the time.
Just two weeks ago, we spent much of the day at the Shabbat service marking the Bat Mitzvah of a friend of my daughter. Another Jewish girl of color, a girl we knew from the park, from preschool days, and then the two girls were in elementary school together until my daughter’s friend went on, as did a number of N’s friends, to a different middle school.
I forgot (I really did) as we walked into the synagogue, that my daughter is older now and wouldn’t sit with us, but would join her many friends in the synagogue. So M and I sat together in the service, holding hands some of the time, and M cried openly through a lot of it. I think she was crying about the passage of time, growing-up daughters and I don’t know exactly what else.
At the party that night– a nice dinner and a rockin, rockin dance party– we sat with a dad– Jim– whose daughter is still in middle school with mine. His wife was home with a bad back. I’ve always been a little intimidated by him. He is a very progressive US Representative from a small-to-mid-size, very working-class city on the east coast. He told me that until he was elected he had lived in the same district, same precinct his whole life. He doesn’t come off as a really a big-city, cosmopolitan kind of guy, which I really like about him. I’ve hardly ever talked with him at all. He is as unpretentious and good-hearted a person as you could ever hope to sit next to at a dinner party and it was great talking with him. He’s extremely low-key and most things come out in about the same tone regardless of what he’s saying.
At some point he told me how lucky he feels that he doesn’t just love his daughter, but he really, really likes her– thinks she’s great and fun to be around and great to play with and talk to. She struggles with reading and academics in school, I think. In the 4th grade, she discovered, and we all found out, she is an awesome basketball player. She had a great coach– my partner, M– and she’s all about basketball these days.
Anyway, at a certain point in the conversation I said– something about the hard time I am having getting my mind around and adjusting to all these changes– to the fact that these girls, recently little girls, seem so grown up now and getting more so week by week. I didn’t want to be perceived as overly sentimental or as a mother who cannot let go. So I threw in, “I know kids have been growing up for thousands and thousands of years….” and I was ready to follow it with something– that I now cannot remember. But Jim interrupted me in the most animated and booming voice and cut me off. He said, “Yeah, but not our kids, not our kids– our kids have never grown up before“. Enough said.