Friday, 10 September 2010
Magpie Tales #31 A waste?
My brilliant girl, my only child – I had such hopes of her. After her father's departure from our lives we were a close, even closed unit. Our thoughts entwined, we were always in harmony. There was no need for any other in our family. We shared the same sensibilities, laughed and cried at the same things. Music was special – she played the flute and I accompanied her on the violin. We gave concerts but we knew we were never more than gifted amateurs.
She excelled at everything she tried. She was athletic and languages came easily to her but it was Physics that fascinated her and which she eventually studied at degree level. She didn't go away to study but chose rather to attend a local university – it was a mutual decision arrived at after lengthy discussion. Nothing was ever hidden between us – we talked about everything and rarely disagreed. After completing her MSc she thought it was time to travel further afield to work on her doctorate. I'll never forget the feeling as I waved her off in her little car, stacked to the roof with all the things from home that she felt she couldn't live without.
She phoned me as soon as she arrived at her new lodgings. She sounded so excited that I felt a momentary pang of regret that I had not encouraged her to spread her wings earlier. As the days wore on her calls became briefer and then less frequent. I was content that she was happy and was myself very busy, working long hours. When she came home at the end of the first term our initial awkwardness with each other soon dissipated and we resumed our familiar relationship. She told me of the musical group she played with and the choir she had joined. She had made many friends, she said, and though I listened carefully I could discern no allusion to boyfriends, or at least not a particular one. I had a sense of her drawing away from me a little but thought it was natural that her new circumstances should affect her – after all, we were not sharing the same home or daily life any more.
During the second term she phoned less often than before and I began to call her more regularly. She was perfectly amicable but I sensed a certain reserve in her voice and wondered if my calls were irritating her. I asked her but she laughed and said I was imagining things, she was just very busy.
It was during the holidays – it must have been March, the Easter break – that she told me she had momentous news. She was very composed, almost detached as I sat opposite her in the warm kitchen. I was startled by her news but tried to hide my agitation. She had, after all, another term to complete. Her research was progressing favourably and her colleagues appreciated and applauded her work. This she told me quietly and matter-of-factly and finally, almost as an afterthought, she told me she would be leaving almost immediately.
I protested, calmly at first and then more vehemently until I realised she had made her decision and there would be no recanting. I stared at my daughter, suddenly a stranger to me, as she gazed at me and through me, a slight smile on her face, as if she were already departing this world.
Yesterday, I drove her to her new home. I waited while she changed her everyday clothes for the vestments she will wear from now on. We said our farewells and I left, with tears on my behalf and a look of tranquil understanding on hers. As I looked back I saw her turning away from the window, a new novitiate in a silent order of nuns.
Willow organises this weekly prompt. Thank you, Willow! Click here for more Magpies.