“I am sorry,” I tell her. “This was my first global pandemic as a mother. And my first time parenting teens.”
Nothing I say will sway a firmly-set opinion. I do not remember these purple onions giving me such a hard time last time I chopped onions, but I refrain from wiping away tears as I prepare toppings for the chicken, and close my mouth so I do not cry aloud.
“Nobody eats the onions,” she asserts, “but you make them anyway. You slice them into tiny little nothings that do not matter.”
Of course, it matters. It all matters: that I come home every day, that I am faithful and steady, that I model kindness and humility at every turn, even on Mother’s Day. Especially the day after Mother’s Day.
I know they will pick out all the onions and discard them even though just yesterday we ate omelets with onions and bacon and cheese. I slice and dice and swirl onions with mixed herbs, olive oil, and garlic to brush on the chicken to bake. She continues to tell me all the failures which encapsulated our pandemic lives.
I should have asked my grandmother how her own mother survived the 1918 influenza pandemic half a world away… but it never occurred to me we would repeat history yet we repeat it daily, especially mothers with teen girls who are determined and have a vision for what will be, and the vision does not include how things hold at the present.
My child holds a revisionist history of life two years ago and instead of nostalgia decides to prematurely sever the emotional ties which were so vital to her wellbeing then and now.
She cannot go back.
And yet, she cannot let go in 3 months if there is nothing holding her back home. She knows I live with open hands and trust her, and have helped her become who she is. Maybe she feels it is better to step away now than care in three months. I wonder at all she is thinking, and how many injuries my own mother endured at my leaving, all those years ago.
I held her, though, my child, those many months of pandemic life, in my prayers and in my arms, in my heart, in my hopes, praying she would navigate pandemic teenagedom with some sense of accomplishment, which she did to become an independent spirit, so she would soar, and in a way to finally outgrow me.
She was fifteen when it started and had a sixteenth pandemic birthday just two months into our quarantined schooling life. Now she will turn eighteen and no further milestones seem before us except for graduation.
I linger back and await her response, but she does not notice me still working in the kitchen.
I am the onion which makes her cry and which she knows is vital but now feels optional. From senior trips we cannot afford to literally hoping to stay alive during a global crisis over the last two years, the emotional cord is dwindling, as it should. As it is meant to be.
I stay steady, and slide the chicken pan into the oven, then set the timer to bake. I step outside to my backyard patio and notice waxy verdant aspen leaves unfurling into May, which means snow is nearly over, for now.
The darling buds on neighbor’s trees now bloom in white. The wind blows and a gust collects fragile petals which soar in the air and over the fence onto the walking trail. For a moment, all is quiet, a sense of peace and silence found by hearing wind whirring the pine tree, and birds serenade and call their own babies home.
Tears are still blurring my vision and my dog kindly wags his tail at my side. I can see my 3 daughters in the house waiting for dinner to cook, hunched over the kitchen sink, hungrily eating leftover beignets from a friend, their laughter evident through our kitchen window, powdered sugar on their faces.
The powdered sugar is like a mist in the air, which is softened by the sunlight, and despite great pain, I know I will look back on this time with great fondness.