The Train Whistle

April 15, 2011

This morning I got to sleep in – my daughter has a doctor’s appointment.  She pitches softball and swims and they’re two repetitive motion activities and her shoulder is really hurting her.  Appointment at 10:15.

I woke at six o’clock and reveled in the fact that I didn’t have to get up.  That I wasn’t 15  minutes from hitting the road for my daily commute.  Heaven.  It was then that I heard the train whistle.  Quiet and mournful in the distance, calling me to remember.  The sound of a train whistle will forever remind me of wee hours of the morning, sometimes barely a new day, being awake and nursing my daughters.  Sometimes sleep deprived, sometimes rocking them, sometimes exhausted and near tears.  Always grateful.  Those times are so precious.  Those moments such a gift.  I’m in love with the train whistle.  It opens a window that lets in the breath of memory.  Nearly perfectly in the moment.  Sharply aware of those times and the sheer “in love-ness” with a tiny person, waiting to become.

My oldest daughter is now 19.  She’s fiercely independent.  Wise beyond her years.  She does not need any insight.  …Except when she does.  Yesterday evening, a huge argument ensued over carry out.  A $10 meal.  Really?  Well, yes and  no.  It was about everything BUT the food.  Food the catalyst for an overloaded brain of an overwhelmed teenager to let off some steam… at my expense.  We missed my little one’s softball scrimmage.  We didn’t eat.  We yelled and cried and that only made it worse, because she said hurtful things that offended me.  She was disrespectful.  I was just bewildered at the turn of events, because we’d been laughing and talking earlier.  She asked me for advice and read me a paper she was working on for school.  In a matter of two minutes all that was over… and the war was on.

We wrangled our way though the conversation, snaking around issues that were convenient, snarky remarks, indignant responses, loud voices.  We learned a lot.  The conversation was about her frustration with a group at school that she has to work with for another three weeks.  The class is about groups.  Working in groups is hard, especially when you are young and don’t have a lot of life experience to draw on.  It’s frustrating.  The conversation was about feeling unappreciated.  No one noticing your accomplishments, and you’re working your ass off.  You don’t even want to be engaged in the things you are tied to and yet you’re still doing a good job.  …and people can only notice what you DIDN’T do.  And then it was about fear.  Fear of being betrayed in friendship…again.  How she’d been so upset for no reason the night before and burst into tears at midnight, alone in her room.  She wanted to call her friend and talk to her, but that would involve risk.  Putting yourself out there, sharing part of yourself with someone and not feeling safe.  That is some scary stuff.  Because she’s been burned before.  Maliciously reeled in and used by a friend who really wasn’t a friend, but sold the act to perfection.  To this day she is afraid of women in relationships.  She hates that. I hate it for her.  It was so unfair and truly, my heart breaks for her.  But that is life.  You learn who you can trust and who you can’t.  And the lessons aren’t easy and there are no fond memories.  And you take all that hurt and anger and fear, and embarrassment at having been played, and make it about yourself.  What’s wrong with you?  And you wonder what makes people so hurtful and have such callous disregard for another person.  And you become jaded and fearful.  And you pick fights with your mother because you can’t hold it in.  And you both cry and yell and point fingers and desperately want it to have never happened.  But it’s too late, because it did.  And you see yourself at 19 and think about the future and where you went wrong and where you went right.  You think about the path you chose and the hurts and fears you encountered.  And she will live all of that, too.  On her own path and in her own way.  And she will learn, sometimes the hard way.  And there isn’t anything you can do, but be her mom.

Sometimes late at night, my daughter will come and crawl into bed with me… just before I’m getting ready to turn out the light.  Her timing is impeccable.  She’ll want to talk about something.  And I just want to sleep.  Five thirty comes early.  But there is no sleep and whether it’s two minutes or two hours you’ll listen and offer advice.  She doesn’t always want advice, but sometimes I forget that.  I’m good at the advice, but that isn’t what she needs.  She needs her mom.  Just to be there.  Sometimes sleep deprived, sometimes rocking her, sometimes exhausted and near tears.  Always grateful. Because this grown woman lying next to me is my little girl.  Because when she comes in and sits on your bed at midnight and wants to talk, that is a train whistle moment.  And I’m in love with the train whistle.

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