My daughter is home from college for the weekend. I see her walking towards me from across the room and for a moment, I am looking at myself when I was a girl of 20. The sight of her as a young me is so startling that I catch my breath. Since the day that she was born, I have watched in amazement, and often with relief, how different she is from me.
She has her father's eyes and the shape of his face. She has her own upturned nose and perfectly square jaw. She is well-proportioned and I am long-limbed. Her features are subtle and soft while mine are sharp and angular.
She dresses in colorful, flowery prints while I wear dark solids. She paints her nails: light green on her fingers and royal blue on her toes, colors my own hands and feet have never seen. She is sweet-natured and she is a good listener; she gives you her full attention with genuine concern. I am easily rattled and I talk too much, intent on making my point, sometimes failing to hear hers. She is patient and I am not.
She comes closer to me and I wonder if maybe it's the hair that makes her look like me: She wears it long and parted down the middle, as mine was at her age. But her hair is sleek and smooth; mine was coarse and wavy. She smiles at me and I realize that her smile is the same as mine: wide with straight teeth, a subtle similarity that seems to be asking me to take a closer look.
It's been so easy for me to see how my daughter is not like me. Our differences have created healthy boundaries and stark contrasts. They've allowed me to see that she is her own person and not an extension of me. I've seen in her traits that I only wish I had. I've seen in her, a quiet strength that made me question my own strength.
But today, I've seen myself in her and it made me smile. It made me think of ways in which we are alike.
We both move through challenges with fierce determination in the face of persistent self-doubts. We are both conscientious workers but we prefer lazy days. We both enjoy company but crave solitude.
We both love words and we both write and we read books together. We both like yoga and we can strike a pose of downward dog or half moon together. We share an interest in politics and we laugh and cry together during romantic comedies. We both feel a little afraid when the plane takes off and breathe out together when it lands.
She will be 21 soon. And I now see that the old cliché, "a daughter is a little girl who grows up to be a friend," is actually true. And like most friends, my daughter and I are very different, and yet, at the same time, so very much the same.