In Belgium, there is a small chain of café/restaurants called Le Pain Quotidien, or in Dutch, Het Dagelijks Brood (“The Daily Bread.”) The idea is, you sit at one long wooden communal table, read your newspaper or chat (or write your blog!) while enjoying delicious soups, salads, open-faced sandwiches, croissants, taking your time. The café culture in Europe is one I treasure, along with so many facets of European living. So here I sit at said establishment in Antwerp, waiting for my tuna salad and hibiscus cardamom iced tea, feeling the simple pleasure of sharing a table with a few strangers. What if I were to strike up a conversation with the woman breast-feeding across from me? I’ve grown more shy about such things as I have gotten older, so I know I won’t. It is lovely to watch the look in the young mother’s eyes as she feeds her little one.
At another table nearby, a mother and daughter are having lunch together. From the speed with which they chose their dishes and settled into a conversation, I would guess they meet at least once a week. The daughter is around my age. Watching them, I am struck with a pang of envy.
My life is all I could ask it to be, and I am surrounded by loving, lovely people. But my own mother is 8,000 kilometers away. At most, Mom and I see each other twice a year, and sometimes an entire year goes by between visits. It’s hard for me to get to Oregon from Luxembourg, especially when my “vacation” time often consists of concert tours to the four corners of the globe. I miss the relationship my mom and I might have developed, had we lived closer together. And it is always an awkward component of our times together, trying to fit the intensity of all our mother/daughter feelings and thoughts into a few days.
I know she loves me dearly and is glad that I am able to live my dream as a professional performing artist, and that she is proud of me. I hope she realizes how proud I am of her too, of her devotion to the people she loves, her willingness to be of service to her ideals and to those she encounters who are in need, of her sharp wit, of her quality of innocence in a world that so often succeeds in squeezing the innocence out of us. I think about her more than she will ever know.
Life is truly a series of choices, and the paths that open before us and close behind leave their indelible mark upon who we are. I would not, in hindsight, have chosen any other life than the one I lead. But sometimes I wonder what was behind the other doors. Would I be closer to my parents? Would I have had children of my own? Would I have been happy? Fulfilled? Of course it is impossible to know. My way of being involves remaining committed to the choices I have made without looking back. Still, I miss you today, Mom.