I send an electronic request to my teenager, asking to see an Instagram account. Mom, she says. That’s all. Just: mom.
I see her Instagram of flowers, mountains, dirt roads, definitely of meals, of us. I say that’s fine, and it has to be fine, I know.
I call this college freshman at her dorm room and ask about her day and what she’s doing right that minute. While talking to me, she’s applying makeup. She says she’s headed out. Out, wherever that may be. I imagine her, bending near the mirror, painting her eyelashes.
I’m at the dining room table. A cat rubs beneath my bare foot.
As she approaches 19, I remember reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved in graduate school. Everyone in my small department read it then, passing around a few copies, asking, Have you read it yet? Near the very end, a single line amazed me, a secret unfolding. You your own best thing, Sethe. Have I taught my daughters this? The feminine strengths they need to know?
I don’t ask for her secrets again – this tall, quick-witted, cleaver-tongued gorgeous young woman. But dear Lord, I’m listening.
Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.
– Toni Morrison, Beloved