Your daughter helped you pick your outfit – black leggings, short boots, a fun top. She is in a lively mood when she meets you at work. She’s chatting, smiling, full of energy that was lacking when she got home from college two days previous for Thanksgiving break. But tonight she’s practically glowing, her makeup carefully done, cheeks shimmering, eyes sparking and outlined with a steady hand. You breathe a sigh of relief as the two of you walk to your Jeep and get on the road to the concert.
You park then hurry through the rain to the theater. Your daughter gets a text that her friends have arrived. You meet up. The girls want to get a spot closer to the stage. You want to join them but there’s something in your daughter’s eyes that makes you think you should let them go be on their own. “Go ahead,” you tell them, “I’ll be fine on my own.”
You find a spot to stand. You are surrounded by hundreds of people but you feel alone. You find it hard to breathe. Feel like you cannot swallow. You go to the bar and get a Diet Coke. Wish you could have a real drink and loosen up a bit. You text your daughter. Tell her you are sad you are alone then feel bad for telling her so. She replies, “Come and find us.” You try but can’t make your way through the crowd so text her back and say you’ll catch her at the end.
You find a new spot to stand. Put a hand on your hip. Then both hands on your hips. A power pose that makes you feel awkward, not powerful. You wonder if everyone is looking at the middle-aged mom-lady wondering why she’s standing with her hands on her hips. Maybe they believe you are a bouncer, you think. The thought makes you laugh. To yourself. Not that anyone could have heard you, it’s so loud here. You shift your weight. Left foot. Right. Left again. Find you are holding your breath. Try to breathe deep. Discover your left shoulder is stiff, that you are holding it higher than your right as though protecting your heart.
You find a new place to stand near the back. Hippo Campus takes the stage. The crowd screams. You don’t scream but you sway to the music in an understated fashion, suitable, you hope, for middle-aged moms. You remember you have never been a typical mom so try to be cool and take a video. You raise your camera phone with great hope for a video worthy of social media then realize you’ve taken a burst of 49 photos instead, all blurry.
You try to enjoy yourself but think about your daughter. Is she one of the kids jumping up and down to the music? Is she having fun? Is she singing along? When we leave, will the memories of the concert make her feel hopeful in the dead of winter, or will dread take its hold like it’s done before?
The music is so loud that the floor beneath you is shaking. You close your eyes and feel it move up through your feet and into your core. You find yourself smiling, laughing, even, at the happiness of the people around you. The band plays their last song and leaves the stage. The crowd screams. They scream louder and louder. Soon the theater is aglow with the lights from hundreds of cellphones held high, beckoning the band to come back for more.
The band comes back on stage. They start their last song, the song you know your daughter has been waiting for. That you’ve been waiting for. This is the song she claims helped keep her alive last spring when things were really bad. The song that meant so much to her that she got a tattoo of buttercups on her leg, a visual reminder that things will be okay.
With the first words of the song you let out a sigh, a sob, really, then realize you are crying as your body sways back and forth, back and forth in that instinctual rocking motion of mothers. You reach up to wipe your tears and you remember all the times you’ve done that for your daughter, for skinned knees, for nightmares, for those times when life has been so hard she’s wanted to leave it. You wish, for the millionth time, that you had answers. That you could make things easier for her, your baby girl, now nineteen years old and trying her best to make it on her own. You close your eyes, you breathe deep, you rock your body back and forth, back and forth, as the band sings the words you choose to believe: “She’ll be fine on her own. She’ll be fine on her own.”