Tied to mom, for good

As my daughter twirls away, I twirl closer to my own mother.

John Kehe/ Staff

My 83-year-old mother is coming to town this week – and this time she won't be leaving.

She has always loved Boulder, Colo. – visiting us at least twice a year, making the trek from the East Coast for a long weekend. Those brief, occasional visits always seemed ideal. We could enjoy each other – without making each other crazy.

"Deary, you never make me crazy, but I know I make you crazy," she always reminds me. But that hasn't prevented her from deciding that Boulder will be her next and forever home.

My mother may be retired, but please don't think of her as an oldster. This is a woman who prefers to run errands by bicycle, take as many courses as possible, tutor bilingual children, hike the English countryside, and – most recently – design a website with a political focus.

She's thrilled about the Bolder Boulder, the Shakespeare Festival, and continuing education courses at the university.

I'm suddenly wondering whether I'll be able to keep up. My husband and I cherish quiet solitude. We like to read The New York Times, take long runs, and enjoy the excitement of a good thriller at the movie theater. Our Friday and Saturday nights are mostly devoted to fielding phone calls from our 15-year-old daughter whose constantly changing plans – parties, sleepovers, and other social events – seem designed to test how anxious she can make us by evening's end.

Adding my mother to the mix is like making up a new cookie recipe. It sounds OK, but I'm not quite sure how it will turn out. And, really, the old recipe was working out just fine.

For 30 years I've kept a comfortable distance from my mother. Having 10 states between us is my version of my daughter's closing her bedroom door and text-messaging.

I am quickly trying to learn this new dance of motherhood. As my daughter twirls away, I twirl closer to my own mother, one step, two-step, clap, and back again. It is a dance to both classical music in the living room and the beat of my daughter's rap music upstairs.

(My mother once asked, "Is that someone yelling?" I answered, "No Mom, that's music.")

I drive by my mother's new home, stopping long enough to imagine her tending the garden in a floppy hat and too-short khakis, reading on the front porch only a few miles away from me – forever.

It's like walking into my children's room before they were born, wondering what it would be like to have a new life fill the space. How do I get ready for my mother to join my world as I joined hers over 50 years ago?

Children and parenthood help us all to see that we are both teacher and student.

I think about the soft blue scarf that I am knitting and the fact that I am uncertain of how to "cast off." My mother knows and she'll teach me. I have read online that "casting off" is the important stitch that binds the wool so it won't fray and your project will be complete.

Perhaps mothers and daughters are always learning to "cast off" from one another, completing one stage and moving on to the next, trusting that things will not unravel, but will instead lead to the beauty of a new beginning.

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