16: Invisible Mom

16: Invisible Mom

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Magic of Mothers and Daughters

Invisible Mom

See everything; overlook a great deal; correct a little.

~Pope John XXIII

It had the potential to be a happy day. My thirteen-year-old daughter had been selected to join the National Junior Honor Society at her middle school and parents were invited to the induction ceremony. But at the supper table the night before, my daughter’s words squelched my excitement.

“You know I won’t be able to talk to you tomorrow,” she informed me in her matter-of-fact tone.

“That’s fine,” I remarked casually, wishing inside my little girl still wanted me by her side. “After the ceremony, I’ll leave quietly. You’ll never know I was there.” My words seemed to reassure her.

“Well, I just wanted you to know, that’s all.”

“Don’t worry, Jelly.” Her eyes widened at the mention of her family nickname. “I won’t do anything to embarrass you.”

The morning of the ceremony, I stood in my closet, hands on hips, surveying my wardrobe. I decided on a beige shirt, black pants and black shoes. Plain and simple. That way I could blend into the background. Never be noticed. My hand instinctively grabbed my denim jacket, the one my daughter calls my “mother coat.” I sighed, leaving it on the hanger.

I arrived at the school fifteen minutes early hoping to get a good seat. I figured if I couldn’t talk to my daughter, at least maybe I could get a good look at her when she got her certificate. I chose the second table from the front so as not to appear overly anxious, yet still be close enough to snap a quick picture as her name was called.

I glanced down, noticing a small strip of my lower calf was revealed. My daughter’s voice whispered inside my head: “Not cool, Mother.” I quickly pulled my sock up, then tugged my pant leg down. Now there was no skin. My daughter would be proud.

I scanned the rows of students already seated in alphabetical order by the stage. Several were peering around the audience for a familiar face. They waved, then smiled, obviously spotting their parents in the crowd. I wished I could be so lucky.

Finally, I recognized a delicate pink ribbon in the back of my daughter’s hair, her body straight like a statue, feet on the floor facing the stage.

Several brave moms ventured down to where the students were seated minutes before the ceremony started. With cameras in hand, they called their children by name. Did they not receive the same instructions I did last night? Or maybe they chose to ignore them. My camera sat quietly in my lap. Not long ago, I was one of those moms. But not anymore. I had promised I wouldn’t embarrass her.

The ceremony began. One by one, each student’s name was called. Each received a certificate. A few parents snuck down close to the stage, crouched to the floor and snapped close-up pictures of their children. Instead, I pressed the zoom button on my camera and hoped I would get a good shot. I clapped quietly as her name was called. No whistling. No yelling. No standing up to cheer.

After the ceremony there was a reception in the cafeteria. I stood alone, scanning the crowded room for my daughter. Finally, I spotted her across the room in a circle of friends. She was laughing and talking, obviously enjoying the day’s festivities. I wanted to run up to her, throw my arms around her and tell her how proud I was. How much I loved her. I took a deep breath and remembered my promise.

Parents were starting to leave. I couldn’t see my daughter any longer. She must have gone back to class. I would have to wait until she got home to tell her how proud I was.

Suddenly, I felt a tap on my shoulder. It surprised me since I didn’t know that many parents at her new school.

“What are you doing standing over here all by yourself?” my daughter jokingly asked. Had she forgotten her instructions from the night before? Before I could fully appreciate her gesture, she excitedly jumped in with another question.

“Would you take a picture of me with my friends?”

Would I? I couldn’t unzip my camera case fast enough. She even introduced me to her friends.

By now, the crowd was dwindling as parents filed outside and students headed back to class.

“Well, I guess I better be going,” I announced reluctantly, not wanting this rare closeness to end.

“Well, you have a good day, Mother.” My daughter beamed like a ray of sunshine. My heart swelled with pride once more. And suddenly, it was a happy day after all.

~Deanna Ingalls

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