Sunday, June 3, 2012

Pomp and Circumstance

She hadn’t known she would be getting an award.   “Mom, I got an invitation, but idk what’s really going to happen.”  She says the letters. Eye. Dee.  Kay. I want to jump up and throw my arms around her when she does that.   Because she knows it’s funny.  My kids are so cool.  You’re probably going to say it’s because they have a mom like me.  But you’d be wrong.  It’s because my kids are so cool that I even stand a chance.  

Even though she is reluctant to have me there, I go anyway.  I know she must be winning some kind of award or she wouldn’t have gotten an invitation.  When she does, she will feel sheepish that she told us not to come.  

The Senior Awards Night event is being held in the theater.  I wait in my car until after almost everyone has gone in.  If I slip in late, I don’t have to sit alone waiting for it to start.   I will stand in the back. Happy just to stand there. Not taking up a seat.  Easy escape if necessary.  All the way at the back means there is no one behind me.  I take up no space and no one sees me.  There is nothing to see.  I am not here.

I might get through this after all.  The ceremony continues, award after award is announced and bestowed.  The degree of mawkishness varies.  The severity of my scorn ebbs and flows.  The lacrosse scholarship gets visible lip curling.  The first in his family to go to college gets a nod of respect.  Past and present are swirling together.  I got lots of awards in high school.  National Merit Finalist.  Outstanding Achievement in Music and Theatre.  But it’s not about me now.  It’s about my daughter.  Who has gotten here through her own choices.  What she valued.  No one else’s expectation of her.  Except that she please herself and do her best in equal measure.  That’s what we’ve always said.   Sometimes I envy her for the way she is being raised.   Is that irony?  I'm never sure.


“You’ll be fine.  Really.  You will get through this and then you can go home and have an enormous drink.  And chat with me. You are going to be fine.”  

She reads the text surreptitiously.  This is the part she had been dreading.   The graduation ceremony is not in the theatre.  It’s on the football field.  There is no wall to back up to, no sneaking in late, there are no lights to dim.  It’s the other parents she wants to avoid.  Always comparing herself to them, finding herself lacking.  Turning that inadequacy into scorn.   Easy to do from the safety of her car.  But now it’s time to get the mask on, time to nod and smile.  She used to be good at this, working a room, mingling, small talk.  But as she’s gotten older, she’s drawn herself inward.  The inner voice she used to try to shake off, to drink away--she doesn’t tap dance for it any more.  She listens to it, and that voice is calling bullshit.

“Okay.  But will you text me?  Maybe around 6:20? 

“I don’t know if I can, babe, but I’ll try.”

Okay.  At least someone out there knows what she’s up against.  Strangely comforting that someone she doesn’t really know is out there to help her.  Better than trying to rely on those around her.  Even if she could get their attention across this chasm, even if she wanted to, she’s pretty sure they wouldn’t understand.

They are not late, but not early enough to get a good seat.  She spies a row of clearly empty chairs.  Not about to play the awkward “is this seat taken” dance.  Of course the seat is taken, dear.  We were smart enough to get here early.  Rules like “no saving seats” don’t apply to us.  She settles in and tries not to look around.    Busily begins to peruse the program.  Her phone buzzes vigorously in her hand.  Her blogging buddy.  He jokes with her the whole way through Pomp and Circumstance.  Elgar's Earworm.  She remembers made up lyrics from long ago.  My reindeer fly sideways, your reindeer fly upside down.  She stifles a giggle and opens the next message.  Suggestive phrases that make her smile.  Industriously, she texts her replies.  She realizes that she has missed the excruciating opening remarks and gotten halfway through the diplomas.  Why didn’t she know about this decades ago?  She looks at her phone and reads.  Hold the phone in your lap and I’ll text you at random intervals.  Call me and let it ring, she replies.  She used to chide the kids for this.  No texting at the table.  But Oh Em Gee, she thinks.  This is awesomesauce.

She looks up suddenly to see that the ceremony has concluded.  People begin to mill around, looking for their graduates, stopping to hug and shake hands. People she has known for decades now seem unfamiliar and hostile.  She strides off purposefully, looking into the middle distance, pretending to be on a mission to find someone who doesn’t exist. Stopping at the goal post, she looks at her phone again.  This time she is reaching out to a real person.  She wants to see her daughter, her graduate, the reason she has sucked it up and done visualization and doubled up on her meds and texted her way through the ceremony.  

“Where are you?”

“I’m with Kelsey and her mom.  Look for the huge sign her boyfriend is holding.”

Almost done now.  A few arduous photos where the tension of this ordeal will play on her face despite her attempts to relax and smile.  A few more hugs and handshakes.  Deflecting the questions about work and life.  Mutely nodding at the insistent reminder that they must get together soon.  Almost done.  Like the dentist says right before he drills for another quarter hour.  

With relief, she sees that they are back at the car.  Going on rote must have blocked out that last few minutes.  The graduates have left for an evening of festivities.  Her son and daughter are eager to go out to eat.  Her husband wants to get home to catch up on the ball game.  Thank god for DVRs.  She starts the car.  “I thought that was very nicely done,” she says.  Mentally pats herself on the head.  And the phone in her purse.  Is that irony?  She is never sure.


I hear stirring at my daughter’s door.  God bless her, she just got up. The school has an all-night party for the graduates and they stay out till 5 am. It's to keep them from going out drinking and driving after graduation. The side benefit for me is that I neither have to throw nor attend a party of my own.  Ell Oh Ell.

Just listening to her talk about the party is energizing. She has such an engaging way about her when she tells stories. Her laugh is infectious. I keep tearing up and blaming it on allergies. But she is too intuitive for that. She watches me try to shake it off and smiles ruefully at me.

I sit with her and watch her eat. She tells a hilarious story of the hypnotist's show that was part of the evening's entertainment. I try to soak up as much of her as I can. I had been anxious and agitated all day. Sometimes Klonopin has a wicked backfire. But then she got up and made herself eggs florentine for breakfast at four in the afternoon.  She set herself down in the middle of everything and told her stories and wove grace throughout the house.  I relaxed for the first time in 24 hours.

There is an open house tonight, given by a friend's parents. We are meant to attend in the loose way that open house invitations are issued. Bless her, she knows before I even prepare what I am going to say. "I know, Mom, it's okay."

And I say "If it were really important to you, I would suck it up and figure out a way to go and I would enjoy it. If you really want me to. Please tell me and I will."

And she said, "No. Mom. It's not that big a deal. I don't even know who else's parents are going. Maybe no one. I'm not worried about it."  And she looked at me with benevolent understanding. I guess I taught her that much. The child mothering the mother.  Is that irony?  I'm never sure.


  1. Wow, you seriously do have an awesome daughter. Maybe she's an old soul in a young body. You're very lucky, but also, you had a hand in her awesomeness, so GOOD JOB!!!

  2. I so very much love the way you write. Your daughter sounds like a lovely mix of intelligence and compassion, you've done a great job and congratulations on her graduation!

  3. Thank you, Mina, for sharing so eloquently and hostestly. And like the other comments, I must echo "Well done!" on the parenting!

  4. As I read this, I can feel it. Partially because of how you write, with grace, eloquence and honesty. Partially because I can feel the anxiety. Your daughter is amazing and so are you. Thank you so much for sharing.

  5. Been here so many many times. My children are getting older now and they see the rising terror on my face when no one else would recognize it. They know when to throw the protective cloak out and help me be visible but invisible. I empathize and thank the universe for my children.

  6. Another beautifully written post, Mina. I know we're not that close online, and that we don't know each other at all IRL, but I feel such a strong connection to you. Especially when you write. It's almost like you're in my head.
    Although I still haven't been to a therapist since I posted that one time on your group wall, I am starting to suspect that klonopin might be something that could benefit me; because if that's what you take for the issues you talk about, then it's pretty likely that we have the same problem and possible solution.
    Does that make sense?
    Thank you for writing and sharing your beautiful mind with us. xoxo

  7. I have never read a blog that so accurately depicts what I go through when I am facing a crowd situation. This was an amazing post thanks for writing it. Your daughter sounds wonderful, it sounds like she was raised well!

  8. This is an amazing post, Mina. This hits home...hard. My mom is on medication now but she somehow got through my childhood without a single mg. I was dropped off for events a lot. She couldn't handle them...only I never understood why. I do now and I would give anything to go back to age 18, pat her back and tell her I understand. I know I wasn't as understanding as I should have been. What an amazing young lady you have raised. Beautiful.

  9. Beautifully written! And bravo to both you and your daughter.

  10. Your writing spoke directly to me and I am grateful now to discover I amnot the only one...

  11. Wow! My souls sister. I wish someone had explained my feelings to me years ago, now at 50, I'm just starting to figure out my 'why's" and realize that, I'm ok. Really. And so NOT alone in this journey. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Thank you for writing this. I don't feel so alone. I even cried a little while reading it because it hit so close to home.

  13. I so relate to this. Now I know I am not the only one that feels this.

  14. What a wonderful post. I can so relate.

  15. Oh, Klonnie. Ummm, yes, thanks for the tears. Glad I decided to read this when I'm probably pms-ing AND I forgot to take my meds yesterday AND I had a rough-ish morning with MY daughter, who, like you put it so well, is the reason I stand a chance.

    Seriously???? Now I'm really crying.

    Okay, I'm not gonna type anymore but this is beautiful and so are you and so is your kid. Beautiful.

  16. My mother was no-polar, manic/depressive. She was my best friend. I grew up being her care giver and nurse and never knew about her disorder until just before she died at 52 years old. My life and her life were pretty awful at times, I never knew anything was wrong, except, my family told us kids that she was ill. At different times we had to live with family or friends when she was getting treatments in the hospitals, shock treatment therapy. I can only hope and pray that medicine and science can help to hurry up to make a monumental change in helping anyone that is suffering through any of this and any other disorders. Walking life on a Hightower is exhausting! Hugs Love and Hope!

  17. Kids of bipolar moms can really be amazing, she says, wiping tears and remembering many conversations with her own 16-year-old son.