Saturday, July 16, 2011

Nice, JUST Nice

As we walked toward the adorable la Maison Rose in Paris that some famous artist had painted once and was now cafĂ© for tourists like us—The Husband, The Beast and me, two older British ladies were walking out the door. One exclaimed in her loud, exacting English accent—“that was nice…JUST nice.” To which the still diminutive Beast, unable to control herself, automatically mimicked the condescending phrase with voice and pinched facial features to a T. Leave it to the British to travel around the world and make judgmental pronouncements STILL and even about food.

The phrase “ That was nice…JUST nice.” Has become a family favorite insult.
And I bring this up now…because as The Child and I were biking down to the beach she said in all seriousness—“It is nice hanging out with you, but I would like to have a friend come up.” I looked at her and I said: “I am nice...JUST nice?? She smiled—her teenage smile and said…” Well…”
I have known for a while that the mommy and me days were numbered, but I thought, here, at our little family beach house that time might be frozen—but apparently time stops for no one, anywhere…

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Life is an Open Book Test

“You are not going to know everything when you walk in the door. No one does. Remember that” I tell The Beast as I check to make sure she has the map I printed out for her and the voluminous list of cellphone numbers of everyone in the city she may need to contact in case I am abducted by aliens.

It has been a week of new experiences, really new experiences, for The Beast. She has gone from going to a little camp in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania with a bunch of nice, crunchy Quaker kids to a competitive writing workshop at the center of the world and intellectually sparing with kids who are older and come from backgrounds that are far different than the comfortable middle class suburban kids she is used to.

“If you are unsure of something—ask.” I tell the child as I tuck an emergency $20 in her pocket.

I guess like everyone--It is just before an event that I always have my greatest doubts. “ Is this too much for her? What if she hates it and hates me?” I think as I put extra money on her Metrocard.

She comes back to me in the lobby of the building. “ I am scared...everyone will be older than I am. “

“You will be fine. You will have a great time. I promise. Just remember to ask questions.” I said making sure she had tissues in her bag.

I met The Beast at the Starbucks a few blocks away 5 hours later. I had my sister by my side for moral support in case there were tears. But The Beast was bubbling over with the energy of a new found passion. She loved it. She loved the other kids, she loved the writing, she loved the “literary excursion” to a gallery and she loved the teachers.

Yes—she said that she felt like the young country bumpkin from upstate NY, but they accepted her. She said she had questions and she got answers. She looked and sounded grown-up. It was heartbreaking for me.

We walk down the bustling, beautiful streets of SoHo toward the subway and I breathe a sigh of relief. It is true what a teacher told me once—life is an open book test—you just need to be brave and ask the questions to get the answers.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Creating Worlds

I sit in this modern, loft-style office with high ceilings and open offices down in SoHo and I strain to hear my daughter as she chats and laughs in the conference room down the hall of this prestigious writers’ organization. She is talking about writing—her writing... She has been writing for years and like the bad mother that I am, I did nothing to really encourage it… until this year. I PUSHED her to apply to a writing program.

Many years ago before she even learned to write the Beast created little worlds hidden on windowsills behind curtains or tucked away in bookshelves. Pulling open a drawer one would come across a carefully thought out scene of Polly Pockets in the middle of some magical event. When she did learn to write I would find little scraps of stories or character descriptions like bits of worlds that were floating around in her mind looking for a home in one of her stories.

Here, The Beast is in her element—talking to other writers—there is an excitement in her voice I have not heard before. The woman who runs the workshop comes to me and says that The Beast is young for the workshop but very socially aware (thank you NPR, the News Hour and mostly Jon Stewart) and mature, they will try to squeeze her in. I tell them—she is an old soul…she has a warmth that can only add to this workshop for high school students. And it is true, The Beast, unlike her mother, is not just thoughtful, but also kind.

The e-mail comes a few weeks later. They feel that The Beast will be a bridge for the other kids in the workshop. She will be the one to bring the group together. First I tell The Husband with victor’s glee that the pushing The Child actually worked this time and then I gaze at my beautiful, smart and nice child and thank Fate for those recessive genes not evident in her parents—maturity and benevolence.