The carousel spun around and around, up and down. As the music swelled, my daughter Lucy threw her head back and laughed.
Even though she was only 16 months old at the time, she wasn’t afraid of the motion and the lights.
She was thrilled with her first time on the carousel, and so was I. Glancing at the sidelines, I spotted my mom watching us ride together, a big smile on her face and her camera raised. I wondered if the snapshot she took of us would capture the joy we felt. If that thrill would be tangible in 2D.
An image of another carousel ride came to mind, taken 35 years earlier. My mom and I, smiling at the camera, the background blurring as we twirled. It’s one of my favorite childhood pictures.
When I was a little girl, I used to think that I was the one having the most fun on the carousel. Now that I’m a mother, I’m not so sure.
I asked Mom if she remembered that day. “Of course,” she said. “That ride with you was a special moment.”
“It’s kind of like Christmas,” she explained. “You think it’s the most wonderful time of the year when you’re a kid. Then you grow up a bit, and the magic disappears. But when you have kids, you see it through their eyes again. The magic returns even stronger.”
“I was more excited to be on that carousel than you were,” she said.
Maybe that’s what I felt with my own daughter – a little bit of that childhood magic reclaimed. The exhilaration of first experiences. The intensity of emotion shared between mother and child.
My enthusiasm was tempered only by the knowledge that it doesn’t last forever – eventually, the carousel comes to a stop.
My mother was the center of my world when I was little. She was where I found all my happiness and comfort.
But as I grew older, we also grew apart. I was outspoken; she shied away from confrontation. I wanted new challenges; she was set in routine – from the minute detail of the soap she used to her grocery shopping schedule. Change made her nervous; it was all that I craved.
She stayed home with me during my early years. When I entered kindergarten, she returned to her job as a teacher, just like her mother before her. She assumed that I’d follow her into teaching too. But I wanted more freedom than that – to be my own person, chart my own path, and discover my own passion.
I set my sights on a career in television when I was a teenager, after watching a film called Broadcast News. I longed to experience the chaos of a newsroom. I started my first professional job at a TV station the day after I graduated from college. From there, my career spanned almost two decades, moving from the TV studio to an executive office in a public relations firm.
No one in my family understood what I did for a living, least of all my mom. And no one was more surprised than I when my path brought me right back to her.
After having three babies in the last five years – and losing my first, Andy, to spinal muscular atrophy – my heart lead me home. I left my job and put my career on hold, so I could focus on my surviving children, Lucy, who’s now almost four, and Will, my newborn son. They are my passion.
Like Mom, I find myself setting schedules for our daily routines – from meal times to bed time and every detail in between. I live in the same town where I grew up, just ten minutes down the street from my childhood home. These days, I’ve found that too much change makes me anxious.
I am my mother’s daughter, after all.
I’ve come to appreciate her consistency. Mom is always there for me when I need her, and I’ve needed her a lot these past few years. I’m proud to call her my friend. I’m closer to her now than ever before.
Mom often comes over to play with the kids. She says that Lucy is as spirited as I was. That I’m in for a wild ride. I laugh to myself, thinking that my wild ride will probably be very boring from my daughter’s point of view.
Still, I suspect that it might feel a lot like our favorite carousel – taking us up and down, around and around. Together, we’ll embark on new adventures and reinvent past ones.
And, when the ride is over, we’ll be happy for the experience, looking back on the pictures fondly and reminiscing, just like my mother and I are doing now.