So, my daughter and I had a MOMENT. And we decided to both write about it to see how we saw it differently. Things are always seen differently – experienced differently, remembered differently. I thought I’d share our memories here so that you can see the differences (and similarities)…
Would the world always look better through squinted eyes (and tears)?
I’m standing next to my daughter, looking out over the Mediterranean Sea, squinting my eyes to make the sunshine sparkling on the water look like Christmas lights, crying. It’s the last morning of our four-week family trip. The trip to end all trips. Four weeks together, touring a bit of Morocco and traveling through Spain. My favorite part of the trip? Four weeks of family dinners and maybe this moment.
My daughter is in the midst of her college cross-country training, and I won’t let her run alone in foreign countries. So somehow I’m in the midst of college cross-country training as well. Who cares that I’m not really a runner and than I’m almost fifty? I’ll be ready for my first varsity race at the rate I’m going. Ready to lose, to be honest, but still ready.
We stopped halfway through our five-mile run so I could say goodbye to the beach. I like saying goodbye to the beach whenever I leave and lucky for me, halfway through was an overlook with a gorgeous view. I meant to stop for a few minutes, so as not to interrupt my daughter’s workout, but she let us stand there for what seemed like ages.
The view was intoxicating, especially when we squinted. Squinting made the sunshine sparkles even more magical – truly like dazzling, twinkling lights on the sea. I took in the moment – the view, the run, the four weeks of amazing family time, the sights and experiences we’d seen and had, and my daughter. I thought, again, of how lucky I am to have my daughter (and my son) and to have the relationship I have with my daughter (and my son). I began to cry.
I looked over at my daughter, standing next to me, and she realized I was crying. Not surprising – she knows I cry when I’m overcome with joy. I held her hand. “How did I get so lucky?” I asked her. “It’s not luck,” she answered. “You did this. You worked for this. You so deserve this.” I cried harder.
I squinted again to see the magical twinkling lights. I stared out at the sea and held my daughter close to me to memorize the moment. I allowed myself to feel the bliss surging through me, to embrace it and ride it to the sense of immense, intense appreciation. To acknowledge how blessed I am.
How did I get so lucky? I think that so often. I could find things to complain about. I could tell you what’s wrong with my life and what (and who) is currently frustrating me. But the reality is I’m blessed. Whether you think it’s a gift or that I’ve earned it, I’m blessed.
I’m blessed with a daughter who wants to be with me, even though she’s a teenager, leaving for college in the fall. I’m blessed with a family that I adore. I’m blessed with a life of amazing experiences and spectacular people. I’m blessed with the gift of mothering my children. (And I might even acknowledge that I generally think I’m a pretty okay mother. I do know I love the job and it’s my favorite job. Writing, I think, comes next.) And I’m blessed with the ability to squint my eyes when necessary to make the view even better.
We stood for what seemed like forever, and also seemed like never long enough, enjoying the view and each other (and the break from the run). Then we headed back.
She taught me to see the sparkles in life
It is our last day in Ibiza and my beloved cross-country training schedule calls for a five-mile run, relaxed pace. My mom and I jog slowly, reflecting on our trip. On the time spent as a family, the sheer length of the vacation, and our runs together. On how terrified she was the first time we ran a five-mile “long run” in the heat – and now that’s our easy day. She’s run just about every day this week, going out alone on the days my dad trained with me. (Consider this a little plug for my mother and her incredible dedication to everything, even when suffering from a stomach bug caused by some obnoxious Spanish bacteria. She’s not going to brag sufficiently about herself on this blog, so I thought I ought to add that.)
Anyway, we take some unexpected turns and eventually come to our halfway point, at the end of a dead-end road with a sudden, incredible view of the ocean.
“Reverse!” I say, but she stops me.
“Can we pause for a minute and say goodbye to the beach, in case I don’t get to say goodbye later?”
She had planned on walking to the beach for a last farewell before we left for the airport, but there probably won’t be time, so of course we stop here. Since I was a kid, my mom has taken every opportunity to teach me to appreciate life. I trust her judgment – if she thinks I’ll remember this trip and beautiful location better for having “said goodbye” to the beach, it’s probably true. (And, indeed, I did. Her reminders to notice and appreciate things always end up being so, so right. Or as she would say, is there really a wrong time to appreciate life?)
So we stop, lean on the wooden fence, and stare at the ocean. It’s gorgeous and endless, and it’s crashing on these big jagged black rocks that stick up like misplaced bits of coastline. And she says something to me – which I will admit, at the risk of sounding like a bad daughter who shouldn’t have agreed to write half the blog post, that I don’t exactly remember – which leads to us talking about us, our relationship, who we both are, the ways in which her childhood changed how she mothers me. I’m touched, and she’s tearing up, and we stand there in silence for a minute before she says, “look at the reflection of the sun on the water. Maybe it’s just because it’s blurry when my eyes are teary and I don’t have my glasses on, but look how pretty it is.” It is indeed pretty – there are few things more beautiful than sunlight sparkling on a rippling ocean – but then I squint my eyes to see it blurry, and it’s otherworldly, and kind of weird.
“When you squint it just looks like a bunch of giant shiny sparkles bouncing around,” I say. She squints, and is ridiculously excited by the sparkles, which makes us both burst out laughing, standing there sweaty by the fence that marks the edge of the beach, relishing all of these four weeks but especially this powerful, sweet, beautiful, sparkly, nostalgic moment together.
Eventually she admits that although she could talk with me and farewell the sparkling blurry beach forever, we probably ought to go home and pack. We head back, a leisurely jog made more so by the five-minute uphill near our house and by the quietly happy conversation we continue the whole route back. It is, thanks to my mother, the most peaceful and meaningful run – and stretch break – I’ve had all summer. As she’s taught me over the years, it’s those little moments, if you can learn to appreciate them, which really count.
Which do you think is “true?”