"...Why do I keep on suffering this carpool?
Even when I've had enough
of being the world's fool
'Cuz she knocks me out;
she fills up my heart
She's my everything;
my shining star
Oh yeah, it's all coming back to me now..."
- Tracy Newman
Tracy Newman is a renaissance woman -- folk singer/songwriter, screenwriter, and sister of 70s Saturday Night Live regular Laraine Newman -- her songs blend funny, with meaningful, in a way that resonates with me. A friend's recent Facebook posting of an article about her career, led me to Tracy's song. "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" It's the perfect keynote for a follow-up post to last Thursday's "Come with What's in Your Heart" below (scroll down to the September 18th post on this blog).
I love Tracy's music, her courage (can you imagine being a successful screenwriter and then putting yourself out there as a singer?),and her humor (not that I believe in the genetics of humor). But this song took me on a quick journey through maternal comraderie, head-shaking recall, parental "oh my gosh, that's exactly what it felt like", and right back to maternal tears of joy.
One of my daughter's happiest days...the day she drove off with a new driver's license and her own wheels...was one of the saddest for me. Don't get me wrong, I actually loved helping her learn to drive...she was a natural from the start, I celebrated when she and her dad walked through the front door -- her new driver's license clutched in her hand, and I loved having her spell me as a second driver on road trips. But the day she had her own keys and wasn't sitting up front, next to me...either driving or riding...was a relationshift turning point I didn't see coming. It wasn't that I wanted to keep her dependent on me for transportation or that I wanted to control her activities.
I missed her.
Pure and simple. I missed her company, her laughter, her voice, her music...her friends in the backseat. I missed those nights when we'd almost arrived at our own driveway after vollyball practice and she would urge me to get back on the highway, or "just keep driving" around and around the neighborhood, until we'd finished talking about something important...or not, or a favorite song on the radio had finished playing.
My favorite car...ever...was a very old Jeep with a big bench-style front seat. It was a big truck of a car, the paint was sun-damaged and the gas mileage was probably in the single digits, but I loved it because when my daughter and I would drive around town or take short road trips into the mountains, she would move into the center section of the seat, put the seatbelt around her waist and lie down with her head on my lap as I drove with one hand on the wheel and the other smoothing blonde tendrils away from her forehead as she dozed off to whatever was playing on the radio. Those were the days before passenger airbags and shoulder belts...at least in that car...and I loved our relationship within that old Jeep.
When our daughter started driving herself...from here to there and back again...I thought I'd lost something irreplaceable...forever. Until one day I came upon a favorite statement by Mary Baker Eddy from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures:
"A mother's affection cannot be weaned from her child, because the mother-love includes purity and constancy, both of which are immortal. Therefore maternal affection lives on under whatever difficulties."
I'd long loved this statement, especially in light of Eddy's own experience as a mother who'd had her young son taken from her care (because of her frail health and then discovered his caregivers has taken him far away from her) with her husband and father's permission. My reduced "car time" with my daughter was nothing compared with Eddy's isolation from her beloved son. And yet she could confidently encourage mothers to claim the immortality of maternal affection under any difficulty through her prose, poems, and spiritual songs. I realized that I, too, could find other ways to enjoy closeness with my daughter...texting, a shared journal, asking her to take me places, playing Apples to Apples with our friends -- hers and mine -- at a nearby Starbucks over Christmas break.
These exercises in stretching my heart's ability to embrace her closely, even though she wasn't in the seat next to me, was essential preparation for the day she would fly off to South Africa for a summer visit that would turn into three years of her living 10,000 miles away with only my annual two-week visit to see her face and look in her eyes while she told stories or we laughed together. I learned too learned to pour my prayers out in poems and songs, to write stories of her childhood (like this one), and to send my love through the whatever technology I had at hand.
Love is spirirual, it is not geographical. It cannot be contained within the cubic square footage of a car, a house, or the borders of a country.
If you still have children that need a ride here, there, or anywhere...and back again...enjoy it, soak it in, bask in the sweetness of it. The day will come when you will miss the sound of their laughter from the backseat, their music on the radio, and their questions and stories that you hope will never end....while you drive around and around just to hear their voice over the hum of the engine, above the underscore of a turned down radio, and in the glow of the dashboard lights.
And when they do get behind the wheel of their own car, on a plane to fly off to a country far, far away, or close the door of their dorm room once you've fluffed the last pillow, hugged them too long, and reminded them to call...often... before leaving campus after dropping them off for the beginning of the new semester, remember, "a mother's affection cannot (not "ought not) be weaned from her child." It will make it easier...not easy, but easier...we promise.
Kate Robertson, CS