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Almost 31 years ago, I gave birth to the miracle that is my daughter Amy.  From the moment she entered this world, my focus became centered on taking care of her needs, trying to give her as many of her wants and dreams as I could, and helping her grow strong so that she could achieve her dreams in life that needed to be done on her own.  As most mothers find out, my dreams and wants pretty much took a back burner as life drew me through divorce and trying to carve out a living…life just wouldn’t let me do the things I’d dreamed of or go to the places I’d hoped to see.

And that was alright!  My “big” dreams became simpler as I got older.  Yet there was one place that continued to stick in my mind…one place I dreamt of visiting and exploring ever since I was a child…Washington DC.  I would spend hours clicking through the Viewmaster reels of the city and marvelling at the grandeur of the scenes that appeared before me.  I would gasp as the image of the Lincoln Monument filled the screen, amazed by the sheer mass of the sculpture.  I WANTED TO SEE IT ALL!!!

I always regretted that I was unable to take Amy to explore the city as a child.  It was a place I felt everyone should experience at one time in their lives.  Then 4 years ago…she moved there to live and work.  I explored the city through her eyes in her pictures, her emails and her phone calls as she went through her days, still knowing that I would probably never see it any other way.  It wasn’t a trip that I could make easily given my financial situation.  So I remained content with the visits that we did have when she would come home, but always dreaming of the day I might be able to go see HER.  Forget a plane…I’d flown several times before but I hadn’t ridden on a train since I was too young to remember.   I could take the train which was infinitely cheaper albeit a 23 hour trip, spend a few days, and then make the trip home.   I started saving back what I could, but was still far short of what I needed to make that dream a reality as soon as I would’ve liked.

Then last summer she called me to tell me she was going to give me a very selfish birthday gift…I would be getting a round trip train ticket to Washington DC,  I would be staying for a week with she and Dave in their home, and I was to accept the fact that I would pay for nothing.  Despite protests (for isn’t that what mommies do?), she said “You’ve always done things for me.  This is something I want to do for you.”

I admit to being scared.  Where I once was fearless in my youth, I was now hesitant in my age.  I’d never been to a city as large before in my life.  I just KNEW that “little country towngirl” was stamped on my forehead.  Boarding the train from a little outdoor depot, I settled into my seat as I watched the station fade from view, everything familiar and comfortable and filled with love behind me as the wheels took me further away.  I made it through the train change in Chicago (my word, there’s a jillion tracks there!), my confidence boosted as I settled into my sleeper car for the 19 hour trek to DC.

Amy warned me!  She told me it could be a bit overwhelming.  I thought I was prepared for the feeling as I left the train and made my way to the front of the station to meet them…but nothing could possibly have prepared me as I emerged into the fall sunlight under the largest American flag I have ever seen to be faced with a view of the Washington Monument that brought me to tears.  I made it!  My “dream trip” was no longer a dream…my daughter had made it a reality.

Then my daughter’s arms wrapped around me, holding me steady and on firm ground, bringing me to earth with her love as I used to when she was a child.  After a whirlwind tour of the city I was wondering if I would ever be able to make sense of it all as I was on my own most days since she and Dave had to work.  They laid careful plans and directions out for me, but I still felt hesitant that first morning when I set out.  Could I do this????  Was I getting too old to handle a trip of this magnitude myself???

That week I proved to myself that I could.  I walked more miles than I could imagine possible, I saw every monument (some several times), I visited the Smithsonians and the National Archives and the Capitol and the Library of Congress, I walked some more, I ate foods I’d never had a chance to try,  I shed tears at the Wall,  I visited bakeries and coffee shops and bookstores in Dupont Circle, I rode the subway and the double decker bus, I stood outside the White House lawn in the drizzling rain, and I met some of the most wonderful people from all over the country and overseas.

And I never once got lost!

Each night I would meet Amy after work for the walk home.  We would share our days and she would  listen to my enthusiastic adventures, often with a smile on her face as I babbled on that reminded me of the ones I once had as she babbled on about her adventures as a young child.  In ways our roles were reversed…she somehow knew I needed to regain some of the confidence that sometimes ebbs away with age.  And in the sharing of those walks home and the evenings that followed full of food and laughter and sharing, I found a deepening respect for her as a woman living her own life…we no longer were just mother and daughter, we were united as women who have been doubly blessed with the bond as mother-daughter!

It’s a subtle shift…one that I realize is inevitable as I look back at the way it has shifted the same way between my mother and I over the years.  It’s a shift that is so very difficult to express…that words can barely express but is known so deeply in my heart. There were so many times that I wished I could bottle up all the sticky kisses and “little girlishness” of her childhood and keep it forever.  The reality is that it will always be with me forever in my heart. I will always have that.  But this deeper, newest of phases in our mommy-daughter saga is one that I would not trade for the world as well.

Amy gave me many gifts that week… she gave me my “dream trip”, she gave me the opportunity to renew my confidence in myself at a time when it was lacking, and she gave me the gift of deepening our bond as women and taking mom and daughter to a whole new level in life.  It was one of the most amazing weeks of my life.

She will always be my little girl…that will never change.  She will always be my biggest cheerleader as I will always be hers.  And she will always be the best woman friend I will ever have the honor to be blessed with in my life.

It’s the circle of life and love!