My daughter sleeps in my arms. I sit in the in the timeless modern rocking chair from my infancy, singing Leaving on a Jet Plane and Hebrew folk songs from my childhood. Among the lyrics, “This melody cannot cease…we must continue to play it, because [it] cannot cease.”[i] I marvel at her perfect face, her eyes, her blond hair, her tiny lips and fingers. I am not sure I know what I am doing with this few-day-old infant, but at that moment I am unworried, caught in the awe of my girl. The melodies calm us both and create a soundtrack of love and strength as we begin our journey.
Tonight I remember that evening. My girl turns fourteen in a few days. Her blond hair now cascades in curls around her face on the flannel pillowcase. Her face is still perfect. Her size, well let’s just say that when we both stand she can look me straight in the eye. Her voice speaks with the quiet eloquence of an old soul, reflecting thoughtful observation of the world, interspersed with lighthearted silliness of a wondering child. Her heart is full of compassion and feels the weight of the world. Her mind bursts with creativity – cakes and cupcakes, parade float on a wheeled dolley, song lyrics imagined, music, boxes turned into alternative worlds.
I sit on her floor writing as she sleeps. I want to be close, but don’t want to waken her as she sleeps restlessly. This night I want to stop time and remove sadness. Later in the night when she comes in with a bad dream, I will hold her tight.
The soundtrack for my girl does not cease — though with Shema, James Taylor and Hebrew camp songs added in. I can no longer hold her compactly in my arms; now her legs dangle over mine. But still, she wears a cozy sleeper and I wrap my arms around her when I am permitted. My role is no longer new, but yet every day just when I think I know something, it changes, or I realize I don’t.
Now we talk. I know, I know, as a mother of a teen I am to listen and listen – but I don’t always make it without speaking. I can’t help it – I want to say… By day she gets impatient when I ask the wrong thing or do the embarrassing mom thing. Many days I am not sure how to soothe her soul from the day, and wonder if I have done right. But I do what I know. Before bed we read next to each other and watch snippets of Nora Ephron and Nancy Meyers movies. And I return to our soundtrack, some nights both of us too tired to sing, but Shema always remains.
On this night I am overwhelmed by emotion. How can I protect my girl and keep her secure? How can it be that I just signed her up for high school? Both of us caught in the emotion of the birthday, I plan and promise what I know – it will be fun. Our rituals will bring color and love to her day, to traditions that have grown up alongside her and changed as needed with the times. Still, there are things that bother our souls, that I daily wish weren’t there, that I can’t put back together for her. But I can continue to hold my beautiful girl, whisper to her as she sleeps and sing. The melody does not cease.
[i] Et HaManginah, Yair Rosenblum.