I wear onion goggles to protect my eyes as I dice. Liza bounds into the kitchen, hovers by my side, and asks, “What’s for dinner?” As quiet music floats from the overhead speakers, I make a mental note she won’t ask that question in the fall. When your 18-year-old is college bound, your awareness latches onto everyday details.
Suddenly, Liza darts to the volume control on the wall and cranks it. I whip off my onion eyewear, grab a wooden spoon, and hand her a spatula. Mock microphones. We face each other and belt a mother/daughter version of Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
Like the song, our dramatic moves vary between the slow and frenetic. We bob our heads forward and back as we alternate choreography.
“Galileo let me go.”
My daughter and I have cultivated the art of random singing outbursts. Off pitch, sure. But singing nonetheless. Gripping hairbrush-microphones, we used to twirl and prance down the hall and sing duets inspired by her 1st grade affinity for the Disney star, Hilary Duff.
Why Bohemian Rhapsody Will Always Be Our Song
I merged the mom/sibling role for my only child, but to be clear, I was game. Singing with a faux-microphone is my jam.
So the spur-of-the-moment kitchen performance of this opera-rock-ballad resembled the theatrics we’d done for years. And faced with the college countdown and my trepidation of transitions, I made more than a mental note. This one stung like a pesky paper-cut. Who will sing “Bohemian Rhapsody” with me now? (Note: Not my husband’s style.)
A few months later, the three of us fly from the Midwest middle to the east coast edge. After tackling an endless to-do-list at Bed, Bath & Beyond, I assist as Liza tucks the sheets corners around the mattress of her bed. Then we string photographs of her friends on a freshly painted dorm room wall. And say goodbye.
If good grief is a thing (good grief!) this was it. There is no tragedy here. Grieving the outcome of a job well-done (a healthy kid off to college) seems off-kilter. Overwrought. Yet the grief is still real. So, I dive into the reality it will never be quite the same again.
Truth is, I feel like I’m losing something. A sense of time and place. In a way, I suppose, losing her.
Freshman and sophomore years, she comes home for breaks. In her junior year, she studies abroad. After that, she doesn’t come home for breaks as much. And that feels okay. She flirts with the east coast, and then she falls in love with it. Now, she wants to live there. That feels okay too. As her life unfolds, it’s different, but time marches on and everything changes.
Now, it’s her senior year. Winter break. And she’s home.
The theater is packed. Liza and I adjust our chairs to the fully reclined position. A giant bucket of popcorn perches between us. The title of the movie about to start, Bohemian Rhapsody, shares the title with the song we sang almost four years earlier.
Like the song itself, I’m spinning on a hamster wheel of time. I was a kid in 1975 when Queen first released this wild opus. I’d just met my husband when the 1992 movie Wayne’s World catapulted “Bohemian Rhapsody” back to the top of the charts. And who knows how Liza learned every lyric by junior high. Love it or hate it, this campy manifesto has definitely endured.
Sometimes, familiar things carry forward to a different time and place.
Liza and I immerse into the movie. Then it comes. Fingers dance on piano keys and start the unmistakable melody. The slow beginning to the oddly epic anthem begins.
I straighten up and fling missiles of popcorn confetti off my shirt. Liza’s face shines with an anticipatory grin. We didn’t have access to fake microphones and refrained from singing in our seats. Instead, we absorb the familiar song, together again, in a way that feels new. She leans over, grabs my arm and squeezes.
And I’m awash in a new realization. Time changes things, but it doesn’t wipe the slate clean. It was never possible to lose her. Because her future doesn’t subtract our past. Despite miles and new layers of independence, my daughter and I are close. Because we endure. So in whatever place I find us on our circular wheel, the music plays on.
Jennifer Cramer-Miller is a writer, gratitude advocate, and author of the forthcoming memoir, Happy to Here. Follow her blog at jennifercramer-miller.com. You’ll also find her written work in Brevity, The Sunlight Press, Mamalode, Medium, The Erma Bombeck Blog, The Kindness Blog, The NKF Kidney Stories MN, and The Emily Program Newsletter.