The New Normal



On the one hand, I am grateful my older daughter found her beshert. On the other hand, I miss her much more than a lot.


It’s no so much that she was tied, at the umbilicus, to me, as it is that she is my firstborn. Her first loss of a baby tooth was monumental, as was her first day at school. Her first sleepover at a friend’s home was reason enough to ring up the entire extended family, and the first Shabbot, during which she filled our home with her friends felt like reason enough to sing “hallelukiah.” 


It follows that when this first of my offsprings moved to her own nest, that event, her big transition, felt epic to me. Sure, it’s best when life’s significant moments are palpations of good things. Better a wedding than funeral. Better a nice Jewish boy than an evil son of who-knows-who. Nonetheless, feelings of leave-taking wash over me in ways for which I had failed to prepare. I doubt people are equipped, in actuality, to prepare for such matters.


More than the crumbs left on my family’s dairy sandwich maker, more than the laundry left unsorted in front of our washing machine, and more than any email imploring me to “quickly” response to some problem of documentation or of diction (the bride’s determined to create and to teach text, just like her Mom), there are other, more significant, trails left behind. For the moment, those unspoken words, those unreceived hugs, and all of those other unactualized tokens of relationship feel like avenues of emptiness.


Late at night, when I am wrestling with my next best jumble of words, there is no little blond head peering into my office asking why I am still awake. Early in the morning, when I am blearily heading for the shower, there is no slim chick competing for the hot water. These days, when I prepare to greet the Sabbath Queen, there is no twenty-something thanking me for teaching her how to cook, while simultaneously asking me to leave the kitchen to her since she likes her version of certain recipes better than she likes mine. 


As a mother-daughter unit, we invested in seemingly countless whispered conferences, on our living room sofa, about whether or not she ought to date a certain lad, about whether or not she ought to continue to date a different fellow, and about whether or not she ought to accept the marriage proposal of the one she loved. All such issues are moot, now. There is no more need for furtive meetings. There is no longer a younger partner with whom to speak. 


What’s more, there are no new topics to replace those precious sharings; according to my sensibilities, newlyweds ought to be left alone. So, I don’t call and I certainly don’t visit.


That daughter of mine knows how to find me by email (I still loathe texting and despise IMing) if she has a domestic or scholarly question. As per items of the interpersonal nature, it’s probably not, any longer, appropriate to consult Dear Old Mom.


So, I breathe a new normal, glad that I’ve helped to equip my oldest child, that sweet young lady, with resources and with the ability to seek answers when her personal means prove insufficient. Yet, the happiness is threaded with sadness; one of my roles, in terms of that particular child, is over. I have, in one regard, fortunately, become obsolete. Suddenly, I feel my chronological age.


In balance, my life, BH, b’ayin tova, remains full of blessing. I maintain the status quo in my relationships with: my husband, my other children, my extended family, my friends, member of my Beit Knesset, and my professional associates. I still wipe dust from our living room’s bookshelves, I still rub my spouse’s back when he is tense, I still worry over my younger daughter’s nail polish, pray for my older son’s army placement, and wonder about my younger son’s ability to pack away comestibles. As well, there remain the friends who need cheering, whom I call, and the newbies who need a hand up, whom I try to humbly assist. Life goes on irrespective of the changes I undergo.


Nevertheless, for now, at the end of each day’s cycle, I grieve. It was through the creation of my oldest child that I became a parent. IYH, in the future, she will make me a grandparent and possibly even a great-grandparent. Already, this oldest offspring has made me a mother-in-law. Already, she has made me lonely.