Warm up, page 87: What does this woman want? Write about what she misses, covets, regrets, dreams of, longs for, deeply desires. What does she want for her daughter? How much will she be willing to tell the daughter? What will she admit to no one? Will the daughter share her desires?
The cobblestones feel so cool and round on our bare feet today. Sometimes we giggle together as we make our way through the square, trying to only step on one stone at a time. In the shade we can sit, Sophia on my lap, and watch the others try to bike over the uneven paths. I couldn’t get a babysitter for today, so she will have to watch as I throw clay on the wheel and follow me around the shop when curious customers wander in.
Although I hate to call her a distraction, it is harder for me to finish any ceramics with her skipping around, talking nonsense. How could you not fall in love with this adorable four-year-old in a homemade dress and clay in her hair? Oh, how she makes me laugh. When production gets backed up, I remind myself to take a deep breath and think about the years to come when she will not fit into that tiny dress anymore, when she will be at school all day, when she will want to have her own life and move away.
I’ll keep the distractions for now, because one day, she will ask me why we do not travel to see our family at Christmas, like the other kids in her class, or why she does not have someone to twirl her around at the father-daughter ball. I dread the day when I will have to tell her a very different kind of bedtime story. A story about reality, that has some tears and an unresolved ending.
The story’s most recent chapter ended with the kind of stiff and abrupt conversation that usually took place between my mother and me. My voice quivered and hands writhed, but I looked her directly in the eyes and told her firmly that I was moving away, to be with my love, to live simply, to make pottery, to enjoy life and my passion.
“Will you visit us?”
“Us? I don’t see a ring on your finger.”
And this is the way things passed between us: she overlooked the point, and my feelings; I refused to conform to the patterns of familial and societal expectations. What can be resolved between two stubborn women with separate views on what is most important in life?
I don’t regret the time with him and I don’t regret that I now have this beautiful little life accompanying me everywhere. Although I should, I hold no bitterness towards the man who made promises that he didn’t keep, a man who has not met his daughter, a man whose whereabouts are unknown. I was given love and lost love, but it was a beautiful experience.
However, my mother will never see it that way. She only sees the shame. My only remorse comes from the fact that my mother was right about him. This is the secret anger I hide. This is my humiliation that I fear to reveal. She was right. He did leave. He left me, he left our daughter, he left the dream we once shared. But I refuse to feel the shame. I have decided to look back and only remember the beauty.
I hope to convey this to Sophia when she has grown out of that dress and is forced to take on more responsibility, as this world requires of us all. My hope is that not all stories of mothers and their daughters are repeated through generations. I hope that she will learn to look past her mother’s flaws, because that is something I have not been able to teach her yet. I hope she finds love that lasts, whether it comes from her work and passions or in a caring man who will encourage her in those passions.
One day she might come to me with a firm resolve, yet shaky voice, and tell me that her plan is different than my own dreams for her. Maybe she will marry and have the house, the car, and the job with a set annual salary. I hope what every mother does for her child, for her to find happiness. For now, I watch Sophie get clay all over herself and pray that for the time being, she will find happiness in being an innocent four year-old, blissfully unaware and hopping along the cobblestones.