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RECALIBRATION

I lie next to my girl with my hand on her back. While she sleeps, the saltwater tap in the left side of my skull, just above the temple, opens its slow, warm stream and tenderness runs through me. I can feel again—especially the fear I don’t allow myself when she’s awake. I must be mother strong, bright and positive, always believing, never a flicker of doubt. I can use this break.

The liquid lubricates my eye sockets against the everyday too-much. The trickle continues around the back of my throat and along the sides of my neck, warm and gentle. It slows my breathing and my chest finally gives up all the stale air it’s been holding onto, just-in-case.

This salt water loosens the memory, gratitude, sadness, perspective, doubt, uncertainty, and longing I’m usually too busy to feel. It distends my head with the bubble of a sob that might escape, but doesn’t. Instead, the doubts come. Then the inventory; difficulties of the day, the week, the month. Finally gravity cradles my body, sucking me into a release I barely remember.

I remember the weight of my belly full of her— my most intimate acquaintance I’d never met. During boring meetings I would think about this child kicking inside—quick dash back to the topic at hand—next,a wonder “what are all these other bored souls thinking about.” All the while she grew in every miraculous way. Once she brought her long body outside, I’d wrap myself around her on sleepless nights and slow my breathing to trick hers into sleep—a cure for all the strangeness of the world. Often, it would work and I could hold this package of dreams and love in peace.

And now, I pack up all the stuff I can imagine and drop her alongside it, at a place where I know no one. College.

I spent the summer in retail therapy, hoping to anticipate everything and fend off the strains of departure—laptop, phone plan, plugs, clocks and cords. It took me back to a time when I faced motherhood with a similar electronics buy-a-thon. There I was, losing control of my body to a space alien and suddenly I needed a big TV, a microwave, every other kind of thing designed for people who suddenly stay home in the evenings. No the tiny little baby didn’t need them. But electronic gadgetry is so comforting in transition.

And now, eighteen years later, again. But these days, solutions could be a lot more complicated than a dry diaper.

Tonight’s her first night in the dorm. “Goodnight my darling daughter, best I’ve ever done and all the whole world to me. I’m off to the hotel.” She’s so gone.

Walking across the campus that next morning, I feel pleasure and calm just knowing she sleeps here. They seem to want to grow her. She seems pretty comfortable here. But then waiting for her at breakfast, all that old anxiety fills my eyes and chest and breath; she feels like a limb again.

“Hi Honey. I’m leaving today, once I find the perfect clip lamp.” It’s all about the clip lamp now.

There might be some phantom longing.I wish I could always help her. And don’t I know better. The next time I see her, she’ll be floating across the sidewalk, like those other daughters I observe. She’ll pull into focus, and become My Girl again—my special girl—for a bit. That moment is more sweet marmalade than it’s always been. And then I’ll return to my world.

The ground is beckoning to her and she’s planting: studies and mastery; friendships and love affairs; people and solitude. She’ll plan, she’ll do, she’ll have and she’ll be.

The ground is beckoning to me too. I’m pruning, thinning starts. My time feels like my own for the very first time: white porcelain filled with warm custard, golden. New needs and desires, mine.