Sunday, May 27, 2012

Have I not commanded you...?

My daughter seems to have a problem with my, ahem, straightforward nature. When I drive, she usually sits in the front seat with her jaw dangling in horror at my unplanned foray into violent cussing. Of course, her mouth could be wide open because she is sassing me or she is laughing and unable to breath. That has happened, too.
"MOM! Seriously? Can you even hear yourself? You just called that guy a f*ckhead!"
"I'm sorry, really. I just, I mean, did you see what he did?! I've got kids in the car for chrissake's!"
"Um, yeah, ya do. And we can hear everything you say."

Suddenly my son pipes up from his book (which is currently the 'Wit and Wisdom of Ben Franklin,' swear to god).
"Who's a duck bed? What's that?"
I smile smugly at Anna. "See. He doesn't hear everything. I know what I'm doing."

Last night I took my pre-teen fiest-fest to a flamenco show. She was looking very grown-up and very French, I might add, in a striped dress and her "special occasion" lip gloss. In fact, the only element that led me to believe that she was under the age of 15 was, god love her, a tri-colored pair of custom Converse sneakers the likes of which might be found on a Sesame Street set, or the streets of Paris.
We ate dinner, laughed at her clumsiness (that day she knocked the cap to the shaving cream into the toilet as it was flushing. A mess we have still to figure out), and decided that yes, it was OK if she got her hair straightened this summer. I cringe, but the girl has a point.
"I want to see what it is actually like to have long, flowing hair," she said between bites of a fish sandwich.
"It's totally overrated, babe."
"Yeah, sure. That's why every actress, even the black ones, have long hair right?"

Astute little thing.

The show was amazing. When I told Anna it would probably be about two hours long, she sighed and looked doubtful.
"I can't sit that long. Genetics, you know."

She was right, she couldn't sit that long. The girl was on her feet clapping and stomping and yelling 'Ole!' after every sweaty, passionate number. She loved the dresses, she loved the music, and then, of course, there were the shoes.

"I feel like this is something I could do," she said. "I mean, I could actually stomp around in those shoes and not fall. Not like in ballet. Remember ballet?" She giggled and so did I.

"Not everybody is a ballerina, honey." The unfinished thought, of course, was that not everyone is 9 feet tall with an Afro and a genetic code for clumsiness that some would describe as disastrous. Pure and simple. I've seen this child in action. It isn't pretty, and I'm not sure it's something she will grow out of.

On the dark ride home, her voice broke through the crickets and my car's plane-like engine. No, btw, it is not a diesel. Sadly, it makes that noise on its own.

"I'm so afraid we're going to get into a car accident. I mean, it could just happen, and we could die."
"It could just happen, and if it does, then most likely there was nothing we could do to prevent it. But I'm a safe driver and the odds are in our favor."
"But it could happen."
"Anna, a lot of things could happen. And they do happen. But you can't live in fear all the time. It will ruin your life."
"Yeah, a lot of people have been saying that to me."
"And they're right."
"It doesn't seem like you have any fear. I mean, you say whatever's on your mind. And you don't seem to be afraid to do anything."
"What's the point," I said. "If I had fear, I would never have had the experiences I've had. And I would sure as hell never have had you."
"Do you know people who live in fear?"
"Of course I do. And they're miserable. They've never left this town to do anything. Never travelled, never took risks."
She named off a few people who she thought had fear. People I love, people in my own family.
"Yeah," she said. "There doesn't seem to be any spark left in them."

None whatsoever. I didn't tell her that my fear, my real fear, is turning into that. Being so bogged down with what-ifs and supposed obligations and frustrated silence, that my spark dies like a summer day.

The conversation faded off, she asked me what places I've been, when I've had the most fear. I was honest. But kept the swearing to a minimum.

"Were you afraid when you had me?" she asked, finally.
"Anna, it was the most terrifying thing I've ever done. Having a baby alone. But look at us now."

"Yup," she said, slumping down in the seat a little. "Look at us now."

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