I hear laughter as I step onto the porch. Young voices ring out tonight, mingled with those of my friends, daughters home from school, daughters joining mothers in this monthly tradition of coming together to create something with our hands. And with our hearts.
Slender young arms wrap me in hugs before I can put down my basket of yarn. Not mine by birth, but daughters of my heart nonetheless. My, how I’ve missed these girls!
We gather in the kitchen, brewing tea, snatching hot bagels, fresh from the oven. Homemade bagels are no small gift on this cool spring evening. I know that it has taken many steps to bring them warm to our table. Just the smell of my friend’s bagels floods me with memories of our first years in the valley. We were learning from each other then, how to….
Bagels — shaped, boiled and baked by my friend’s hands — somehow accomplished all three.
On this night, we talk of the things that bind us together. Of our children living miles from home, of children moving home to settle near parents in this valley they love. We talk of illness, of trial, of the baby that’s coming — unexpected, unplanned, but loved already and claiming a place in this young mother-to-be’s family.
As conversation flows, hands pick up needles or hooks, balls of soft yarn that will become a sweater or a blanket, maybe a pair of socks. Younger hands lay down a board game and friendly banter creates a backdrop to our conversation.
I watch my friends’ daughters — catch the matching smiles on their faces, hear the ring of laughter that sounds so familiar, only younger.
I’ve looked in my mirror lately only to see my own mother’s face smiling back at me. Growing up, I was never the one to hear “You must be Anita’s daughter. You look just like her!” Always my younger sister caught the eye of those who had known our mother and couldn’t deny the familial connection. But then, I never wanted to lay claim to the resemblance. Our mother, who had been drawn away from us by an illness she couldn’t define, was not part of the uncomplicated, happy life I craved growing up. My stepmother was my “mother” and I was perfectly happy with that.
But time softens the heart and heals wounds, so that in her later years, I could share a small part of myself with my mom. She would have loved tonight, I think now, with the clicking needles, the good food shared, the laughter. Mom tried, in her best years, to create a home. It did not matter that I was not in it. It was enough to see her happy with a second husband, adopted children, a garden, hand-sewn curtains, favorite recipes. I married and had children of my own, and on this common ground we built a new relationship.
Mom would have turned 79 next week. Our season of sharing was short-lived — some things are just too big to overcome — and our final years together were a struggle.
But perhaps the best of her is here, in my home and in my children. It’s what we all hope for and expect — that the finest part of us will live on in our offspring. That someone will catch in a smile or in a laugh the essence of who we are, who we were.
The mirror tells it true. I am my mother’s daughter. And I’m okay with that.