When I was quite young, I loved to climb to the top of the stairs and toss bright pink and green parachuted figures off the landing. I sent toy soldiers sailing on parachutes of soaring dreams and imagined how exciting it would be to jump off on my own someday. It seems like it was the very next day when the tears of my mother soaked through my shirt collar as she pressed her face to my neck. She didn’t want me to go. Go back to college after spring break. Go and get married. Go and go and go. And suddenly, I was frightened. I didn’t want to go either. I wanted to stay in the safe cocoon of my mother’s embrace. I wanted to toss the toy parachutes off the stair landing again and again, believing for even a brief moment that they were flying. I wanted to sneak around the corner of my childhood bedroom door once more to try and catch my toy stegosaurus conversing with toy Woody.
But they never did converse. I was convinced that I’d one day stumble across their subversive gossip about the other toys. I believed they had words worth hearing and stories worth listening to. I still do.
Maybe I’m not ready to enter the adult pool at the beach-side resort I always stayed at when I was younger. The resort with the too-green grass and the playground that shrunk in both its size and appeal. Maybe I still feel like a child. Am I still a child? I never quite lost the wide-eyed wonder that seems to be sacrificed on the altar of adulthood concerns – taxes and paychecks and “what are you doing after college?”
I really haven’t travelled as far in my maturity as I’d like to think. I sometimes revisit the hazy land of loneliness, where I met Alex and Televega so long ago. I remember when my go-to companions were imaginary. At least they have a harder time stabbing your back. My mother would ask who I was talking to and my three-year-old response was “nothing.” Thus, my closest imaginary friend, Nothing, was born–an Asian girl with long black hair and a quiet smile. My Japanese roommate looks like Nothing. But a real friend is far better than Nothing.
I think about when I informed my baby brother that “the morning dove gave birth to chicks.” My imagination was kindled with thoughts of a “morning dove” – a nearly celestial creature that glows like the sun when it coos. It was only later that I found out that the doves are actually mourning, moaning. I mourn over the loss of the blindingly bright morning doves. Somehow my mom caught a recording of my awe-filled little voice instructing my brother and kept it. That solemnity was mimicry of adult action, and it is strange living on the other side of time, smiling benevolently down at other little adult mimickers.
I am an adult, but I am still an adult mimicker. Walking through a crowded grocery store, I may look intent on my task, but I am really as bewildered as a five-year-old. I want to cling to the side of my mother’s shopping cart as if it’s my saving grace, looking up at the figure I knew would always be taller and stronger than me. But now I’m clinging to my own shopping cart, steering nervously, just as I steer nervously through life, looking for her hand to hold in the most embarrassingly timid of ways. I’m returning a phone call at work, and I’d rather lean on my mom’s arm as she dials the number for me. Instead, I leave a voicemail for Curtis, the brash RV park owner, who for all I know is gone fishing – or wishing for his mom’s presence as much as I am for mine.
“I don’t want you to go,” she chokes out during that fated end of spring break, drawing deep breaths between sobs. It’s a terrifying thing, hearing your mother cry. It’s even more terrifying to be the cause. Reverse the years, I want to yell at God. Make me six again.
I’m not six. I am far closer to twenty-six. What a paralyzing thought. Who am I? I’m a dependent on federal paperwork and independent in real time. I’m a daughter, and I’m a woman. Daughterhood seems more appealing than womanhood sometimes. There is a sad, tired feeling that sweeps over me, and I just want to crawl one hundred miles down the coast of California and into my mother’s embrace.
When she visited me, I couldn’t let her out of my sight. She was there, in my college dorm room, and I was so afraid she’d disappear. Feeling her hold me on the dorm bed was the strangest experience of the school year. An odd reconciliation between being a daughter and an independent woman. The little girl is also a college student. How can I be both at once?
I am moving forward, sailing on the winds of possibility. I am still a daughter, yes, and often a fearful one, but I know that I am not alone. I am soaring on toy wings, followed by an invisible fleet of parachuting soldiers and ghostly friends and luminous morning doves.
At the end of my flight path, she stands. Her arms are outstretched. Always waiting.