Ivy turned sixteen recently. I didn’t anticipate that changing much in our lives, as she will always be my little girl. But it seems that benchmark has been a real turning point into adulthood for her. A few months before her birthday she had her braces removed. Overnight, she looked grown up. Then she got her driving permit.
But those things didn’t affect “us.”
Then she got a boyfriend. In and of itself, that didn’t make much of a difference, but it drove home to me the realization that someday, someone else is going to be her family. In two years when she graduates, and I hopefully move to California, she will have every reason to want to stay in Massachusetts, or at least on this side of the country. As she said “My whole life has always been here. Why would I want to move out there?”
For the first time in her life, I’m finally seeing her as her own person, not as an extension of me. That’s a wonderful thing, and healthy, and as Ryan likes say continually, “It’s the natural progression of things.” But it’s a tough pill to swallow.
Today she had some friends over to hang out. They are newer friends, not the ones she’s known since kindergarten who have seen our house and her room a hundred times.
She cleaned her room all day in preparation. It wasn’t that dirty to start with so I wondered why it took so long. And then I discovered something in the hall closet. Her stuffed animals.
Over the years, most have been donated. The special ones are in plastic bins in the basement. But the very special ones have always stayed in her bedroom. When I saw them, it was a blow.
“Why are these in here?” I yelled, knowing the answer.
“I don’t need them anymore.”
“At all? Do you want me to donate them?” Please say no.
I pulled out the two that, I’m sorry, I cannot part with. Rolo, the Cabbage Patch doll I got when I was pregnant with Ivy, and Martina, who we got when Ivy was six and going through her Civil Rights phase. She named the doll after Martin Luther King Jr. and for a while the doll sported an, “I have a dream” pin. Those two will be safe in my closet, not the basement and certainly not donated. I’ve seen all three Toy Story movies, and I know what happens in daycare centers.
Finally Ivy’s friends arrived. It was a sunny afternoon and my work was done for the day. I had planned to run to the post office but was dragging my feet. Maybe she’d need me here to make cookies or pick up a pizza. She walked into the room. “So can you um, go out somewhere or something?” I didn’t see the harm of my sitting in another room alone on the couch just incase, but the idea she didn’t need me coupled with the fact she wanted that much privacy…it shows me she’s really growing up and I’ve somehow transformed from mother to awkward roommate.
“I don’t want any That 70’s Show stuff going on,” I said. I like to think she laughed but it was probably an eye roll. She’s a good kid and I don’t have to worry about her. I guess I never have.
It’s the natural progression of things, this distance. I am at Starbucks for a little while, giving her time to miss me. Right.
Despite her age or independence or the fact that she does not need her stuffed animals anymore, or any of the childhood things she’s outgrown, I will always think of her as my little girl.
From the time she was three until she was five and in kindergarten, she rode the train with me into Boston everyday to her daycare. Even though that was a very unsure time in our lives, when we were beyond broke and I had no idea how our future would pan out, I have to say those were probably the best two years of my life. She was still little enough to carry and bundle under my coat when we walked in snowstorms through the North End. Maybe it was unhealthy that we ate out most nights at the train station because dinner at seven o’clock was too late for both of us, or that it was a rare day we didn’t go to Mike’s Pastry and buy something. It was a special time. And to this day I don’t board the train without thinking of Ivy and our daily trips. I am perpetually proud of her.
When it’s time for Ivy to go to college and move out, it’s not going to be easy but it will be time. I will have California and Ryan waiting for me at the end of my journey and I am eagerly looking forward to that chapter of my life.
I hope that in years to come, whenever Ivy rides a train she thinks of me too.
I will keep her special dolls safe, just incase Ivy has brief lapses into childhood while she’s spreading her wings.