I talk on the phone to my mother, who lives in Florida, two to three times each week. She asks me how the weather is, what I’m making for dinner, how close I am to any fires in Arizona, if my boyfriend has taken me out lately and where we went. She wants to know everything my twin daughters Amelia and Rachael are doing. If I don’t have an answer to a particular question about my girls, she’ll say, “You should know that. You’re the mother.” My twins are 24 now.
When she calls, I stop what I’m doing and sit down on a chair on my deck, the place assigned to relaxed conversation or reading. I listen carefully to what until recently felt like mundane, even invasive questions. Ironically, when I talk to my girls on the phone, I ask about similar, if not identical, things.
I want to know what they are eating. Rachael loves food. She always has. As a toddler she would shriek with delight over a ripe avocado or bowl of noodles. Now she is an excellent and enthusiastic cook. When she visits, my favorite moments are when she takes over the kitchen. Recently she introduced me to one of her inventions, “chowdili,” which is a spicy, stew-like combination of chili and potatoes.
Preparing food was always more difficult with Amelia because she has severe food allergies. As a baby she must have been sensitive to everything I ate because she rejected my milk, then soy, and even goat’s milk. I ended up making her vegetable broth and that’s what she had until she was a toddler. Her diet is still limited, so I am always curious about what she eats.
When I talk to Rachael, I ask about the weather. After graduating from college, Rachael spent three months in India and she is now working in Denali Park, Alaska. I’m interested in knowing the weather conditions in these exotic places.
Amelia lives close by, so when I look at forecasts to know what to wear, I pass on the information as if she needs me to. She is polite and thanks me.
I’m curious about the girls’ boyfriends. When they are being treated especially well, it’s fun for me to feel the excitement of what could be in the future. When there are relationships I suspect are not right for my girls, I imagine telling the offenders to get lost—though there’s really nothing I can do about it.
I need these everything-but-mundane conversations. I sift through the words, shamelessly hanging tight to indications that my girls are happy. I struggle to let go of things that are not mine to deal with anymore. My daughters are adults, admittedly green around the edges, but capable of knowing what to wear, what to eat and how to handle themselves.
I miss the precious moments in life that made them shriek with delight—playing in freshly fallen snow or splashing around in a creek after rain. When I see a young mother playing with her children on the courthouse square, I recollect what it felt like to have a child grab hold of my hand to run in circles, giggling because I poked them somewhere that tickled, or curling up in my lap because of a tummyache.
Once a mother, always a mother. The worries and concerns, the anticipation of a shared smile, aren’t experiences that shrink as children grow taller and more independent. If anything, these impulses continue to solidify, taking on larger and less predictable variables as we surrender control over our children’s lives. It’s both frightening and liberating while relationships revise to embrace conversations with adult content. I share with my mother what I ate today but I also share adult ponderings and triumphs, and occasionally ask for advice, recognizing her elder wisdom. My daughters do the same with me as I awkwardly squirm to own the miracles of who we are now.