If I close my eyes, I can hear her laughter.
Excitement on Christmas morning, of course, but also in the days leading up to it.
The messy business of wrapping presents, baking cookies, watching time-worn tapes of Christmas specials. Singing holiday songs in harmony with her, marveling she was never, ever, flat or sharp. Always right on key.
I remember her stringing beads to ‘light’ a dollhouse; a child who rarely held still sitting there for hours until her task was completed to her satisfaction.
I remember the young lady, barely a teen, chasing me around the kitchen with the video camera as I tried to hide my un-made-up face from it, and the sound of her giggles as I insisted, against her advice, on eating the burnt sugar cookies because “It’s what Moms do.”
The sweet smell of her freshly washed hair as I tucked her into bed, snuggling in to read A Wish for Wings that Work every Christmas Eve.
Fly, Opus. Fly...
I'll never forget how sweet she looks when she's sleeping.
Her birthday is in December as well, and each year from the time she was twelve I would write her a birthday letter.
I found out later she’d saved them all, but I doubt that she has them anymore.
Where, oh where, did my daughter go?
I know where the little girl went; she evolved into a woman, as she was always meant to do.
But I don’t know exactly when it was she made the decision that because she believed one way and I another that I was no longer fit to be a part of her life, to be her family.
To be her mother.
And every Christmas since all I can do is think about all the families divided by one trouble or another. Addiction, mental illness, religious conflicts that run much deeper than any such a thing ever should. Just a few of the things that cut ties that should bind tight and protect from trouble.
I think of the lonely parents and frustrated adult children, angry that their elders won’t live by the script that they would dictate for them. I think of families where the situation is reversed, parents shunning their children. What has the world come to?
In my family, I’m the rebel, the black sheep. I’m the flawed one, because I choose unconditional love over judgement. Because I choose acceptance over condemnation. Because I believe in letting people live the lives they would live and love whom they would love, so long as they bring no harm to others in the doing of it.
There are two weeks left to get through until Christmas.
The recent loss of my father magnifies my sadness but it does not create a more difficult holiday, because he never celebrated the holidays and so I have no holiday memories with him to mourn.
With my daughter, I have so many.
And I will never be able to stop my tears of loss, and profound grief, at the absence of her from my life by her own choice.
I will always wish I could have done more, been more, given more, somehow, that would have been enough to keep her from choosing the narrow path she’s on.
I taught her to love widely, with her whole heart, and so that is how I will love her, still, whether she ever comes home to me, or not.
My daughter turns twenty this year.
How I wish we could be celebrating that event, and even the smallest of life’s mundane daily details, together.
Her absence will haunt me, and all I can do is hope someday to hold her in my arms again, and welcome her home with all my heart.