Reality Check

There’s that moment–when everything in your life is rendered irrelevant faster than you can say “holy shit.”

It happened to me today in the form of a photo. A good friend visited my mother with her parents, husband and kids, and sent over the pics from the family friend gathering. There was my mother, the cool, understanding mom who said “go for it!” when I mentioned the crazy idea of becoming a documentary filmmaker, the original feminist of our family, the only mom I know who has not pulled a passive-aggressive stunt about her daughter not having kids–there she was with the widest ear to ear smile holding my friend’s nine-month-old. I cannot remember when she last smiled like that, or if she has ever.

I felt small. I felt guilty. I felt bad she lived alone. She could have been like my friend’s parents–two grandkids, daughter happily married to a good man. Like a normal person. I mean, what are the odds? My mother had three kids, and it’s yielded only one grandkid. The math doesn’t seem right. What’s wrong with this picture? Oh, me, right. Me. At least my younger sister gave her one, my older one is trying with her husband. Me, I’m not even trying to date, completely happy with being single. The Michelin chef’s special tasting menu dinner, the five-mile run along the river, afterwork drinks at the secret tequila bar, the power lunch with a journalist, the artwork I’m preparing for next week’s group show…is this a description of a rich, fulfilling lifestyle of a New York single gal, or the self-indulgent, shallow days of an ingrate of a daughter?

I’m sorry mom. I didn’t know you smiled like that. And my heart clenches because I don’t know if I can ever make you.

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