At the onset of labor, Ilkka was excused from a dress rehearsal of a Wagner opera to assist in the birthing. (That was back in the old days, when Seattle Symphony and Seattle Opera still had a few decent individuals in their midst—compassion, then a core value). Our daughter Anna Mirjam burst into this world weighing 4000 grams (almost 9 lbs) after a long, arduous labor. She was more perfect than Ilkka or I ever dreamed possible, with beautiful and wholesome features resembling both our mothers. It wasn't until a week or so after Anna's birth that I attempted practicing, and found to my dismay, that violin playing caused her to scream bloody murder. I tried everything: con sordino, molto adagio, doloroso, even pizzicato, but it was to no avail. My violin playing did nothing but agitate my own child, and I turned into a wreck. Together, Anna and I unleashed a torrent of tears, until Ilkka calmed her down by cradling her and singing Finnish lullabies.
I don't know how we survived those early experiences. Anna wasn't a sleeper as an infant. She gave new meaning to the term terrible twos, and I threw tantrums for precious practice and sleep time. Over the years, I ran myself ragged trying to balance the professional obligations with motherhood, skipping school gatherings and small celebrations for futile board meetings and boring luncheons. I did the best I could, earning the title she coined: Best Hands-Off-Care Mom because in a way, my daughter Anna raised herself, and did so, magnificently.
"Anna," I said to my self-assured, college graduate the other day, almost twenty one years later. I have to look up to her because she's so tall. "How about I do things differently from now on? You know, more hands-on. I have time now."
My Anna didn't even stop for pause, or give the offer a moment's thought.
"Oh no, Ma. Please. No, no, no. It's best the way it is." And she reminded. "I love you."
Photo of Anna Talvi 2008