Sunday, May 8, 2011

To My Imaginary Daughter

By Lisabet Sarai

Dear Anne,

Today is Mother's Day, as well as my own mother's birthday. She would have been eighty three today, if she hadn't died of leukemia at age fifty two. Our relationship had its difficulties (what mother-daughter relationship doesn't?), but I do miss her, more than thirty years later. I wish she could have lived to see her kids settled and more or less successful, at least partially as the result of her diligent and principled parenting. I suspect she would have been proud. I wish I could call her and wish her a happy day, send her a card or a gift.

As for me, I guess I'll never be a mother, except in my imagination. Your birth is the closest I'll ever get.

I created you perhaps two decades ago, in a fantasy story I wrote for your father. The tale was rather archly entitled "Labor of Love". It turned on the notion that suffering through the agonies of giving birth could be another act of devoted submission, akin to enduring the whip or the cane.

When your father and I were together, I never dreamed he wanted children (or marriage for that matter). I thought our connection, intense as it was, was mostly about sex. I believed that he was still in love with his former flame, your namesake. Only later, after we'd parted (though never definitively), after I'd married someone else, did I learn how much he desired a legacy, how much he regretted being the last shoot in his family tree. I started to play with the thought of my bearing him a child. What would it be like, if we were a long term couple? What would you be like?

Intelligent, obviously. I'm smart and he's practically a genius. Highly sexed, most likely, and probably very verbal. Aside from that, you're hard to visualize. What would be the result of our melding our disparate genetics? Would you be tall like him, or tiny like me? Would your hair be straight or curly, black or blonde? I suppose at this point, I could choose, couldn't I?

I wonder if he remembers you.

I'll be honest; I was always ambivalent about having kids. My own mom was so over-protective. I worried that I'd continue her neuroses. Heck, I nearly have heart attacks watching other people's children do dangerous things! If I had a daughter of my own, I might never let her out of my sight.

Still - I find children fascinating, partly because I recall the wonders of my own childhood so vividly. I could relive those magic times with my child. I think I'd know how to raise a daughter (though a son would be totally baffling). With my help, she'd grow up believing in herself, open to the world, eager to try new things. She'd know how to enjoy her own sexuality while still acting responsibly. I think about all the milestones: her first words, her first steps, her first day of school, her first period, her first kiss.

I never went through those things with you, but I can imagine them.

I like to think that you do actually exist, in some other strand of reality. If your father and I had done as good a job communicating out of bed as we did in it, you might have been the result. Perhaps that happened in some parallel world, created by different choices. By this time, you've graduated college. Perhaps you're in grad school, or even well launched in your career. Perhaps you're married yourself, with children of your own.

I never would have guessed it then, but I know now your dad would love being a grandfather.

You showed up recently, in a story I wrote called "Like Riding a Bicycle", which will be published in an anthology about kinky couples later this year. The story was a thought experiment. If your father and I had married, would we still be engaged in D/s, decades later? If not, what would it take to start again? Of course, the characters aren't really me and your dad. They never are. But the germ of that story, like so many of my tales, lies in the mysterious heart of the connection he and I shared. Anyway, the narrator (the male of the couple) mentions the disruptive effect of children on his kinky relationship with his spouse. He refers to you by name.


It's fun to picture you coming to visit me - to visit us - on Mother's Day, perhaps with your lover, husband or children in tow. I'd cook dinner, because that's what I like to do, and we'd sit around the table afterward, drinking wine and reminiscing about your past, and perhaps mine. Your dad would be playing with your kids, I suspect. You wouldn't go home till late, because we enjoyed each other's company so much. And later still, in bed, your father and I would compliment each other on how well you turned out.

Wherever you are, I hope that your world has given you the gifts you deserve. I hope you'll forgive me, too, for not having the insight or the courage to bring you physically into my world. We can't change the past, and I don't know if I would do so, even if it were possible. I do somewhat regret, though, denying you the chance to exist.

On Mother's Day, I hope you'll think kindly of your poor, confused old mom.



  1. Lisabet - Kudos for coming up with a take on this, and such an interesting one too.

  2. Wow, that was beautiful. And in its way very romantic. Are there married couples out there like that? Are there mothers like that? Are there marriages like that?

    I think we only dream such things. I've never seen them. Surely such things don;t exist.


  3. Kathleen,

    I don't think that I can trump your tale... Sometimes I think I didn't have children because I was a coward. It's easy to write about something - you experience it vividly, but then you can just let the pain evaporate.

    I used to bug my lovers that they "couldn't commit". But sometimes I think I'm the one who deserves that criticism.

  4. Hi Garce,

    The original story _was_ intensely romantic. However, I doubt that the real world experience would have been.

  5. How very beautiful and (though I feel this word seems to make light of the poignancy I experience from your post) clever, Lisabet. By that I refer to the post's content and, as Kathleen alluded to, your approach to the week's topic. Thank you for sharing.

  6. This was amazing to read, Lisabet. I honestly thought I would never have children-- the years were slipping, slipping away and I couldn't commit to the idea. A couple of miscarriages in 19 years of marriage seemed proof it wasn't meant to be. Then it happened... and now it's happening again and there's a part of me that is in awe at how much life can change from what you thought it was going to be.

  7. Emerald!

    Thank you for dropping by. I wasn't trying to be clever. Just honest.


  8. Kristina,

    You're a much braver woman than I am. I'm a bit in awe myself.