Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

From Blue To Green

The Anonymous Mother

It’s graduation time again – that time of life when we look at our children and wonder when they went from chocolate bunnies to prom dresses, and from Hot Wheels to Mustangs.
Somehow it’s easier for me to look back rather than forward. At least I know what’s back there.

My daughter graduates this year, my firstborn.

When she was three, I had the talk with her about "not talking to people she didn’t know.” That very day, she disappeared, and the whole neighborhood was out looking for her. I found her hiding in the storage shed.

“What in the world are you doing out here?” I screamed. “You scared me to death!”

“I was hiding from all the people I didn’t know,” she replied.

Later that year, I signed her up for preschool. Ever the independent and confident child, she surprised me when she wavered at the end. I took her to the bathroom and her little chin trembled. “Will I be just fine?” she asked.

“Yes, you’ll be just fine,” I said.

The next year, as I was pounding the rules of “yes ma’am and no ma’am” into her hard Southern head, she made an astute observation.

My husband was standing in a chair, painting the walls of his new home office.

“Do you want a ham sandwich for lunch?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“Poor old Daddy,” my little one said. “He doesn’t even say ‘yes ma’am.’”

That was the same year my mother died. For reasons unknown, my daughter called her grandmother “Urdula.” One sunshiny day in early May, my mother carried her outside to look at the flowers. “Urdula, would you turn out that light?” she asked.

Everything happens in May. Later that month I got the call.

“Something’s happened to Mother,” my sister said. “They’ve life-flighted her to Vanderbilt.”

My daughter packed her little yellow Care Bears suitcase. “I know God’s phone number,” she said to me.

When my daughter was 13, she turned into a vegetarian and I had to lure her back to reality with a fried chicken breast. When she turned 16, I experienced true hatred for boys and begged her to become a nun or a lesbian. Now she’s 18 and I’ve tried every trick in the book. I hope she still has God’s phone number, and I hope and pray that she will “be just fine.”

She’s painting the walls of her bedroom for her brother to move into. From blue to green, she’ll be gone. Just like that. When they told me it was this hard, I didn’t believe them. When I thought I knew how to let go, I was wrong. So often in life, we have no choice. If we did, would we ever let go? Probably not.

I pray that I can make it through “Pomp and Circumstance” without anyone having to call an ambulance. Surely I can do this.

I’ve always cried more at high school graduations than at weddings or even funerals. There is more separation anxiety in the air at a high school graduation than any other event in life. The ambivalence of clinging mixed with the exhilaration of letting go presents an emotional roller coaster. But like any thrill ride, there is a sense of satisfaction and relief at the end. There is even the desire to do it all over again.

I’m ready for that relief and that satisfaction. I’ve been standing in this line for 18 years and the last two weeks have seemed the longest. It’s time to buckle up, turn 15 flips and get jerked around like a tree in a tornado.

Will I be just fine? I think so. If not, I still have God’s phone number.


The Anonymous Mother lives in Middle Tennessee. In July 2000, the editor of The Daily Herald in Columbia, Tennessee, replaced a nationally syndicated humor columnist with The Anonymous Mother's weekly column because he felt the writing was funnier and reached a broader audience. “Anonymity is a big no-no in publishing,” she says, “but somehow this works. The mystique has created a certain appeal that allows for a freer voice through which others can vicariously live. I write about the things people feel but are often unable to express, and this provides much-needed relief for us all.”

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Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012