“A mother understands what a child does not say.”
- Jewish proverb
I barely recognized your voice when you crept up behind me as I was unloading the supermarket haul.
"Can I help?"
"Sure," I said, happy for just the company as well as the extra hands.
I smiled as you remarked on every item you touched, taking it on its final journey from shopping tote to refrigerator shelf. It's just now dawning on me how long your reach has grown.
"I love these kind of pickles. ... This juice is heavy, I'm not sure I can lift it myself. ... Oh! You got the yogurt I like, thanks mom. You're the best mom I ever had."
I'm laughing a little as I climb on the step stool to stack boxes of pasta in the cupboard.
I begin my usual response: "I'm the only mom you've ever had, and don't confuse consumerism with competency. ...
You snort, and wave your hand in the air. "I know, I know, I know. ... You're still the best."
I wonder when you got to be so big. It wasn't a month ago that I still saw your baby face beaming at me from behind an alphabet book. Your limbs seem to have branched outward in recent days. You are long and lean, more graceful than gangly.
There are longer pauses between your words now. You understand more than you say, and with this comes a kind of power that can be frightening.
You are beginning to see that reaction bites on the heels of words in a never ending chase. You understand that ticks and twitches, not to mention tears, can give you away. Even a smile, in the wrong place, can work against you.
Your ability to hide your hurts from others comes a little more easily now. Moments of silence, pursed lips, hands tangling hair, a catch in your voice … all things a stranger might overlook.
The alarm on the refrigerator sounds. The door has been open for too long.
I turn to see what the trouble is, envisioning you wrestling a melon into the crisper drawer or trying to alphabetize the mustard jars.
But you are gone and the light from the refrigerator is shining on the empty bags, shapeless and slumped on the floor in front of it.
Your part of the task is over and you have moved on to something else.
I shut the door and begin to smooth the shopping bags. I hear your voice — the one I've known since your first words — bubbling through the kitchen doorway. It's coming from a far room that has been filtered through two other spaces, and it’s followed by the unmistakable sound of children jumping on a bed.
"Let me help you with that," I hear you say to your brother.
I am reminded how time is fleeting.
Soon you will be grown and, inevitably, the silence between us will have grown, too. This relationship of ours — mother and daughter — will not always be easy.
Even if it is a comfortable quiet, when I am gone you may still have regrets — as we humans tend to have — for that which remained unsaid.
Don’t hold on to those regrets though sweets, because we moms ... we already know.
With love and fancy yogurt,
Write to Siobhan Connally a firstname.lastname@example.org