Poetry & Prose

growing pains

I’m taller than my mother now, and it seems inappropriate for me to stand beside and see above her, for my gaze to suspend in the space between her warm head and the ceiling. She made me, wood-worked me, labored over the table of my life for 20 years, and what an insult it is to outpace her to this biological finish line. I’ve always wanted to hold her as she held me as a child—perfectly, and with no hands; to perceive the imperceptible; to be her all-hearing ear—a sadness-shifting, mood-stabilizing shoulder. To do so physically has never been at the top of my priorities: she has a husband and friends and life’s many intangible, tender embraces to cushion her days—sweet music, long walks on neighborhood sidewalks that rise to meet the soles of her feet, good food, home-cooked and otherwise. When I wrap my arms around her, elbows resting like a flesh necklace around her collarbone, I feel bulky and ridiculous, ill-fitting and foolish—like a child playing mommy, and not a bigger daughter reaching for her mother in the only way she knows how. The excesses of my affection sink to the bottom of a glass like ice cubes. I know my neuroses are just that—my own. To the world, our relationship and its hierarchy are as apparent as her cheekbones in my face, the sketch of my body drawn out in full on her frame. One day I’ll be strong enough for her to lean into me and remain still; today I throw my arms around her like she is a flotation device, and I’ve just now, in a shocking turn of events, forgotten how to swim.