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Considering Graduations, Birthdays and Eternity

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“I don’t know Mom, I just don’t feel like myself.”

Family and friends gathered in a small music joint in Northfield Minnesota, and the writer with a mother’s eye noticed that her daughter was unusually distant. The primeval fear of every mother is loss of the psychic bond with the child. So, the mother/writer asked the question, “Is something wrong?”

It was the night before college graduation and the boyfriend’s parents were in town. The boy’s mother, a strong Ojibwa woman, and the father, displaced from his homeland of Iran, had fought the swollen rivers, flooded highways and detours past ruined towns in order to be with the writer’s child. The boyfriend leaned over and whispered in the writer’s ear, “I think she is sad, that is all.”

The answer temporarily held anxiety at bay, but the writer/mother became only the mother now and searched soul and air and conversation for tangible evidence of the filigree of the silver psychic cord that bonded her to this now grown child. For the mother, her woman/child would always be the child wrapped in the yellow blanket that once belonged to her best friend’s child and which was now tucked in the bottom of the cedar chest.

Memory and time are one, and it is 22 years to the day that the daughter was born on Father’s Day, June 15 1986. The daughter was always a fighter, since her first breath did not come easy, and the writer remembers clearly that it was as if a grey veil had descended and draped itself over infant and mother in those sacred moments after birth. The lacey ethereal veil imparted a sense of comfort in spite of the fact that the doctors and the nurses and the baby’s doctor/father were busy with murmurs and suction devices.

When the blue infant was finally given over to the writer/mother to begin the life-long task of nurturance, a flash of recognition passed between them. No matter what the experts say, that babies cannot “see” in the minutes after birth, mother and child certainly recognized each other and remembered a time of soul connection.

Something else happened. The writer/mother could “see” an ether of silver that took the place of the now-severed umbilical cord. From time to time the mother would search to find this fragile filigree that bonded mother to child and both of them to eternity.

The writer remembers how frightened the mother was when she unwrapped the infant in secret and counted fingers and toes and freckles and cried because a perfect being had been placed in her care. She would make mistakes and damage this perfection, she knew this, and was terrified. Indeed mother made a thousand times a thousand mistakes and damaged the perfect canvas that had been placed on this earth, but somehow mother and child survived. The mother thought she would never live to see this graduation day, having always been certain she would die young.

There was evidence that this had happened before. The child would say unusual things, like “I know how to do this,” when given her first skiing lesson at the age of three. There was the time when mother and four year old child were standing on a wooden deck and planning the tree house when the child suddenly screamed a bone-piercing wail and wrapped tiny arms around the mother’s knees.

Mother put her hands protectively on the screaming child’s head and kneeling in prayer asked what was the matter?

He child sobbed, “Please don’t jump like you did before.”

Yes, they were bonded for eternity. The mother was certain of this.

And now, the answer given in the music café spoke truth once again.

“I don’t know Mom, I just don’t feel like myself.”

The daughter was self-aware. She knew fully and with certainty who she was—as she always had. She knew at birth, and she knew as a toddler when she wanted to save her mother from a previous fate. She knew as an adolescent, when she would always champion the wounded, whether it was a playmate in the neighborhood with alcoholic parents, or an otter than had been hit by a car on the roadside. Injured animals and children would populate their home.

Yesterday, the writer’s daughter graduated magna cum laude from a very tough school known for lack of grade inflation. The mother/writer watched for four years as her child fought for knowledge and the skills of her trades. The daughter is a musician, filmmaker and journalist now.

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, the Huffington (more...)

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