A Sewanee story

In my last-minute quest for shelter on a no-occupancy mother-daughter weekend, I ended up in a stone chapel turned tiny house perched on the edge of a cliff.
On Saturday, I woke up to silence like I’ve never heard before. Startled for an instant at the unfamiliar sensation, I closed my eyes and settled back in. It was 28 degrees on a sacred plateau and I was savoring memory flashes from the night before.
My daughter cleared her Friday afternoon schedule and as I rolled up to the dorm, she greeted me with a wide smile of welcome.
Glowing Google prompts directed us to a potluck planned through snatches of text messages.
I quizzed her on the way about who’s who in the friend group.
And how would I fit in?
The moms, busy with kitchen tasks, mirrored their offspring a few decades on fast forward.
And the daughters, freshly-turned out in Blundstone ankle boots and artfully torn jeans, turned up the volume as they tumbled in bearing grocery bags and cell phones.
We arrived from different walks but the keen connections among the young women sparked common conversations.
Two casseroles.
An oversized salad.
And three King Cakes, spongy-fresh, hand-delivered from a famous bakery in New Orleans.
Sharing an impromptu meal to start a special weekend was a just-right way for me to catch a glimpse of my daughter’s new life. One that includes brand-new friendships and endless possibilities for learning and growing. And so this group of mothers suspended responsibilities at home to focus on the young women now gathered in this place.
During a prayer of grace, I sensed the other moms felt the rarity of this season for these first-year college coeds. Lined up on the sofa and spilling over onto the floor, the daughters alternated eating, talking and checking SnapChat for prompts to the next big thing on the evening’s itinerary.
A band pulsed under a white wedding tent pitched on a dry patch of brown grass terrorized by too many footprints.
“Meet my mom,” she said to everyone we met.
So many firm handshakes – practiced at prep schools and cotillions across the Southeast.
So many smiles – all politely sincere.
So many look-you-in-the-eye direct gazes – some with lids droopy with drink.
Under the tent, we found other mothers whose acquaintance we made at visits before enrollment contracts were inked.
We shouted greetings over the music and hugged tightly with the unspoken knowledge that mothers share.
That our daughters were thriving at this mountaintop institution. And that we were now moved down on the list of those most vital in their lives.
But as the music moved us to dance, I felt my daughter’s arms wrap around me, unashamed of me and our bond.
Mouthing lyrics from decades and dance floors past, I swayed and whispered and sensed a shift in this relationship of mother-daughter. A reallocation of my role from maternal authority to female kinship.
So as I watched the morning fog lift, I turned my heart in a new direction. I’m now on a parallel path with a young woman whose intuition, smarts and love of life will transport her from a Tennessee mountaintop to her destiny.
She’ll move ahead on the life continuum and I’ll drop back. But for what was left of the weekend, I kept pace and basked in the joy she shared with me.


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