Mona Lisa Croissant (Lessons in Letting Go)

My daughter Annie sat across the table from me in a pasteleria in Madrid’s charming Salamanca neighborhood.

A cup of steaming Americano in front of her, she dipped a mini croissant coated in chocolate into the coffee, took a bite, and semi smiled almost enigmatically, bringing Da Vinci’s masterpiece to mind. Maybe that comparison is a stretch. But I like it.

I ordered my own croissant that crunched with perfection into an explosion of buttery glory. One of the many foodie firework experiences here that causes taste buds to light up and nearly short circuit from so much pleasure.

I wanted that bite over and over again, and wished that it would last forever. This is the same way I feel about spending time with my daughter during this trip together through Spain.

Perhaps many lifetimes of relationship have given birth to our mother-daughter connection and to our timeless love for one another.

My twenty-six-year old continually teaches me to “Let go” and reminds me to “Not think so much!”  She said this when we were shopping and I was paralyzed by contradictory thoughts if to buy a shirt or not. Her comment pushed me over the hump of over thinking to reach for my credit card. She has never been shy to help me spend money and her Prada shoes attest to this.

The other night we were eating dinner at Akalare, a three-star Michelin restaurant and the “Just let go’s!” were flying. The server instructed Annie on how to properly eat a gamba. With a smile and no hesitation, she bit off its little crustacean head and sucked the juices out. “The best part,” said the waitress. This was way out of her old comfort zone. I didn’t shrink back from the dishes presented to me; squid in its ink, oysters covered in champagne bubbles of jello, a fried gamba head, hot ham fat in a warm cube of Camembert, or beef sponge cake – our “beef moment.” I committed to follow Annie’s lead and let go of however alien, weird, or scary the dishes looked and replace thoughts of disgust with I’ll just trust the chef on this one. However, we both had a hard time with the pigeon roll and I, for one, still cringe at the thought of eating “hake chin”.

We log long, intimate conversations while walking, exploring and eating – the things travel is made of. There have been a couple of pain tinged moments – her sharing of childhood memories regarding the aftermath of my divorce and the lonely emptiness that ensued for years. Though not new to me, it was still crushing to hear. These less than sunny reflections sprinkled here and there don’t impede our idyllic time together. Whether joyous or charged with a sense of sad, thoughts coexist hand in hand. We artfully let the old ones dragging memories that don’t serve us well, drift by. And we return back to the moment.

Much of the junk she energetically inherited from me, has been shed like an old skin. Genetic passing of issues I’ve accumulated from childhood such as body dysmorphia, fear of intimacy, I-want-to-be-alone-but-I- really-don’t syndrome, relationship commitment phobias (because commitment means loss and relationships usually don’t work out), and being a people pleaser have been neutralized by therapy, mindfulness, consciousness, and much self-help. Letting go of a couple of the more trivial traits I unknowingly handed down to her like Bike Riding Anxiety or Losing One Earring are still works in progress. She isn’t perfect.

She has manifested her own destiny and outgrown her old ways of thinking and emerged freed and filled up with certainty and confidence.

She embraces challenge and life with heart and tenacity.  She is the embodiment of authenticity, love and light. She reminds me to be my best self. She inspires me to be my best self.

The child surpasses the parent. The student out grows the teacher. So it goes.

I am in awe of the woman she has become and constantly learning from her. Here’s to you, my Annie, and to all daughters everywhere, for being your mother’s greatest teachers, inspiration, and grand loves.

And here’s to savoring the succession of all the moments that constitute our lives, whether they be filled with chocolate croissants, hake chins or time spent with your grown child.

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