This song by Joni Mitchell always gets me and makes me a slobbery mess of tears and boogers every time I hear it. Especially now that my first born child is turning 18 and essentially into a grown-ass woman. This is truly the hallway for me as my younger one is turning 16 and very soon I will be entering into a very different phase of life. The hallway, remember is what this blog is all about. I know some of you thought it was about the struggles we had with my younger daughter but it’s not, sorry. It’s about being in the middle. Being in the in between. Being in a place where you can go through different doors that lead to new opportunities and experiences. But the hallway? It sucks. It’s long and the same wherever you look and you try to take a left or a right but you can’t and you just keep walking through it because you can’t go back. And in this hallway what I’ve found is that I have to decorate it in order to make me put one step in front of the other. For some people this is called a midlife crisis, for me? I’ll just call it redecorating.
So as I see the hallway coming to some sort of end with open doors, I have time to really reflect. I mostly do this on the toilet or in the shower or when I’m pretending to listen in a pointless meeting. And lately I’ve been thinking about my first born daughter turning 18, going to college, and being on her own. Without me. Well with me but not always with me or something. But then I got to thinking that she’s always been without me as much as she’s with me because this kid is the most independent kid I’ve ever encountered and working with kids for a living I’ve encountered a lot.
She was the child who would seek out hugs but then want to be put down to play on her own for hours. She spoke her first words at 9 months and hasn’t stopped since. She never had a problem separating from me in fact I used to cry when she went for her first day of anything not her. She always did things her way and made no apologies about it. She didn’t just follow the pack or go along with things because everyone else told her to do so. This kid always had and still does have a mind of her own. Teachers called her “spirited”, “headstrong”, “busy”, “bossy”, and one told me that she made her want to “pull her hair out of her head”. I do believe that if my daughter was born with a penis she’d have been called confident, a leader, an innovator, a powerful person. But she was born a girl and unfortunately I do believe that there continues to be a preconceived notion about what girls should do and be versus what boys should and be. But she didn’t let that stop her. She continued to challenge and question and pave her own way and we are now at the point where she is ready to put all of what she has become thus far into action.
And as I go through this hallway getting to some door, I’m putting pictures up along the way of her smiling for the first time, laughing from her belly big and loud, crawling and walking, singing songs with me, taking her first step into school, getting into the saddle of a horse, playing the saxophone for the first time, her first boyfriend, her first heartache, her sitting on her bed putting on makeup, laughing with her friends around the table as they talk about the next step in their lives, blowing out 18 years worth of candles. The pictures fill me with warmth like the sun on a summer day. They make me move forward even though there is some part of me that wants to run fast back to the beginning. Every picture reminds me of the journey behind and the journey that is yet to come and instead of feeling sad or lonely or confused, I feel safe and excited and proud. I do not have the desire to have her back as a baby or a toddler or a preschooler because when I look into her eyes I still see all of those stages. The tears that come are not melancholy ones but poignant ones at the remarkable young woman my baby girl has become.
The light that fills the hallway now is bright as compared to when I was in the depths of motherhood trying to figure everything out and still maintain and keep a sense of my own self. The hallway that stretches behind is definitely not as shiny and hopeful and pretty as this new part of the hallway is but in order to see the pretty parts you have to go through the shitty parts. And even in the shitty parts, if you throw a little paint, hang a few pictures, decorate just a little, it makes it easier to walk through.
I love you Holly Delaney and I am so glad I have you to walk hallways with in this life. Open doors that serve you and close doors that don’t. Decorate your hallway with beauty and know that I will always be by your side. I may be crying as I write these words but they are such joyful tears. My wish for you is not that the hallway is always easy but that you find ease in even the hardest stretches of it. Rock on you bad ass, fierce, and brilliant woman.