Last night I sat around smoldering embers with the child of Arkansas. She asked for another torch and then settled for sticking a branch into the flames and writing smoky letters using the night sky as her canvas.
She bounced restlessly from chair to chair under the half moon, and finally settled down on the grass. The little dog, ever her sentry, was restless too: the night sounds, distant sirens and neighborhood kids screeching like banshees left her anxious about protecting her little girl. The child in her red dress pulled her knees up to her chest and wrapped her arms around them in the classic kid pose, and she stared at the remnants of our fire. It looked like a glowing pile of precious gems, and we both considered it for a long while.
When I went to fetch a blanket for her and wine for me, she requested music. She wants constantly to have the radio on, a CD playing, to be surrounded by music, while I find myself increasingly enjoying a silent backdrop. I realize, though, that her life has a soundtrack that accompanies the vivid script in her head. I remember rifling through my parents’ albums and settling with gusto on “Greatest Hits of the 50s” or Tanya Tucker belting out Delta Dawn. And so, I return with an iPod and speakers, and we sit there together by the fading fire listening to music.
She jumps up to dance around for some songs, and lays on the blanket staring up at the sky with a happy look on her face for others. Best of all, the music and the fire and the dog and the blanket and the backyard give me an hour of the kind of easy and comfortable time in her presence that will probably start to fade in the coming years. There’s a tension between mothers and daughters that is permeable and predictable, and even anticipating and dreading it can’t prevent it.
I know I’ve built a foundation with her that will help us both survive, and I hope that like my mother and me, we’ll emerge on the other side with the kind of deep relationship that I can’t imagine living without. It still scares me that those years are approaching, though.
And so I play my part in the age-old story, snapping at her far too frequently and constantly demanding her best, even when she always gives it anyway. She is beautiful, kind, intelligent, truly funny and I am the lucky one to watch her as she evolves. And so, too, I’m glad for the moments in the backyard by a dying fire under a half moon with the silhouette of the little girl in a dress holding a branch and dancing with a little dog beside her… to the soundtrack in her head.