This afternoon our tennis team had an away match in another neighborhood. For Sunday matches, people bring their families. After the match, Laura and I stood chatting with a couple of ladies from the other team. I commented on some pink tennis balls they had, and one lady said, "Oh, so-and-so on our team had breast cancer last year and these are her good luck charm." Normally I probably wouldn't have said anything, but I thought Laura expected me to, so I said, "Oh, I had breast cancer too, good for her to be back out here playing."
They were like, "Oh, you did?" and etcetera, and then the one girl asked, "How old were you? You look so young." I said, "Well, I was 37 when I got diagnosed and that was a couple years ago. 2010 was not a great year."
Then Laura piped up and said, "But Mom, didn't you also finish your Ph.D. that year?"
It was so funny, because if I don't really announce to strangers that I had breast cancer, I really don't mention the fact that I have a Ph.D. It just practically never comes up. But we three ladies laughed and I said, "Yes, Laura is my PR person, and she's right, some good things happened that year too."
It was a sweet moment, though. Thinking about it afterwards, she was bragging on me the way an adult usually does for a child. Funny role reversal. And also, I think it was something in her that resisted having me so casually describe a whole year--ten percent of her life, really--as "not a great year." That was the form her rebuttal took.
It's been true the last couple of years, but now I notice more and more that she is my little shadow, hanging around by my elbow and listening to what I say and how I say it. I remember doing the same thing with my mother and the other women in the family, learning how to operate, learning how to be sociable and what tone to take, learning all the different registers of daily facework.
And with kids who are no longer little kids, you start to realize that they see not just the face we all present to them as their moms, they really see us. They know us.