The first thing I noticed when she was born were her hands. Nine days overdue, I was sure it had taken that much time for her nails to grow and form into perfectly manicured tiny points. Her hands wriggled in the operating room’s cold air and at that moment I realized that she was undeniably mine. Such is the case for her peer counterparts; their mothers each must have memories of an innocent image captured in their mind’s eye. Those fleeting seconds of beauty during the most naive time of her life is what undoubtedly will carry me through the challenges of teenagehood.
She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen- pink, wrinkly, and soft – the only name fitting for her translates to tulip – my favorite of all garden flowers. Over the years, she has proven that she lives up to that name. It is the first stubborn flower of springtime, raising its head early on – when the cold weather has barely subsided as if in challenge. With scarce vegetation around in early spring, the tulip is a prime delicacy to its aggressive predator – the deer to savor its tasty leaves and flecked petals until the root is all that is left. Centuries ago, the value of the tulip was unmatched – both in nature and in artwork. It was, and is sought after, and has been worth its weight in gold. The tulip has satiated insatiable hunger among the poor – forced to eat the bulbs for lack of food. My daughter possesses the stubbornness, she falls weak to others, and to me – her worth cannot be matched nor value compensated; she has satisfied hunger from the heart and returned the love we have given her ten times over.
Throughout the daily trials – grades, mixed up priorities, makeup, a messy bedroom and bathroom, endless shopping excursions for the latest fashion risk, thinking back to when my only job was to protect her makes it more of a manageable task now – remembering that my only job is to protect her. A couple of weeks ago, her science teacher from last year emailed me and his subject line was “Gardening and the struggling tulip.” As a fellow gardener, he and I share stories about the less hardy floral endeavors we’ve taken on in the garden with dahlias and rhizomes. I did not expect his struggling tulip to mean MY struggling tulip. He had come across her interim grade report in a pile waiting to be dispersed at school, and knowing what my expectations are and what her current focus is he knew that she and I would have words to exchange that evening. In the afternoons, she shares stories about kids at school, some with funny things to say, other girls with hurtful actions and it pains me that there are some mothers who don’t know how their daughters hurt my own and I wish they would appreciate that I’m tending a delicate flower.
I try hard to remind myself that she is mine, but she is not me. She and I are two ends of a different realm and I can’t remember if I was that way as a girl myself or if there will ever be a way to close the gap between us. She is easy going, and I am intense; she is lackadaisical and approaches everything as if she has all the time in the world without a care to fret about; I am an obsessive listmaker who deals with my own clock – filling it with almost too much to do with the parameters that I set. I worry about her grades, her future, the jeans turned inside out on her bedroom floor for days on end, and I lecture. I get tired of hearing my own voice sitting across from her and my eyes fall to her hands. They are bigger than they once were, quickly approaching the size of mine, as an impending lady herself, but they are the same hands wriggling in the open air for the first time waiting for me to protect her.