Allison and I have always had a tug-a-war relationship. She pulls...I pull harder: each of us trying to get our flag across the center line. Many days my heart is worn and frayed from the constant tugging friction. Now, don't get me wrong, there are times, lots of times actually, when the rope gets slack, and we meet in the middle over songs, or shopping, or Anne of Green Gables, but it's always been strange to me that we don't coexist more often in harmony, given the fact that we are so much alike. Maybe it's because of that likeness, that we do struggle. It's not always easy to look in a mirror. I see so much of myself in her and I want her to overcome my personality in ways I haven't managed yet. I want her to be strong where I am weak, to succeed where I have failed.
Despite this often tumultuous relationship, we have never been good at being apart. As an infant, Allison and I spent hours, days even, alone together. Shane, who was working long hours and in school, only saw us in bits and glimpses, and on Sundays. Allie and I suffered through that first rocky year almost physically attached to each other. So I guess it was only natural that when I went back to work when she was 15 months that our hearts broke at the loss of each other. She spent her hours at daycare sitting alone in a corner, incapable of expressing or even comprehending the loss she felt. I went to work each day crying, my stomach retching over the grief of my little girl. Obviously things couldn't stay that way. We changed daycare, we shortened working hours, and we adapted. As time passed, and she grew older, it became conceivable to be separated for jobs, for sleepovers and then even eventually, for sleepover camp.
Last year, in 4th grade, Allison decided that she and her friend, Sadie, wanted to go away to church camp. I was surprised and a bit concerned. Previously, Allison was only willing to attend school trips and choir trips if I was able to go as her chaperon. Chaperoning church camp last year, was out of the question, as I was nine months pregnant with Clara. After much discussion she decided that she was ready to embark on a trip away from me, with Sadie at her side.
When the morning came for her to leave we found out that Sadie had been bumped to a different room, and Allie, who doesn't make friends easily, was with someone new. She was fiercely trying to hold back tears and I was trying hard to support her, an encouraging smile pasted on my face. As buses drove away, I smiled and waved and then, of course, I burst into tears. My stomach was sick and retching once again with anxiety that she would be ignored, ridiculed, that she would be sad or lonely. For four long days I waited anxiously for her to return only to find out that she had a wonderful time and couldn't wait to return the next year.
Well, next year was yesterday. I didn't cry when she and Sadie boarded the buses this time. Ben and Clara and I kissed her off to a cheerful goodbye and got in the car and drove home. I congratulated myself on what an evolved and together (and not nine months pregnant) parent I had become. Then this evening, I found her performance CD for the talent show on the kitchen counter. Allie and I had rehearsed together for this. I drove her to the audition and watched her with butterflies in my stomach and then my heart soared when she blew them all away. We rejoiced together when she found out she was chosen. We had, just the night before, picked out the outfit she would wear to sing. And now she would not be able to perform. It was back again, the nausea, the anxiousness. My heart was aching knowing how sad she would be when she found out.
And so this afternoon, I am going to ignoring this nagging voice that tells me I am teaching her something bad about responsibility, and I am going to drive her CD the hour and a half to camp. I called the number on the pink piece of paper, the number for emergencies only, cringing even as I did it, to let them know I was coming. I know they think this is crazy. I know this is just a silly camp talent show and there is probably some lesson to be learned here for both of us. But all I can think right now is that she will be heartbroken because... I know. I know what it's like to forget things, to lose things, I have done it all my life, and I can fix this for her. And so, just this once, I am not going to teach the lesson, I am not going to tug back on the rope. I am going to get in my car and bring my baby girl, who's not a baby anymore, her CD.
And I think maybe that's okay.
Allison and Sadie, off to camp