Thursday, May 7, 2009

Whoops! There Goes Another Button!

The Dancer came into the world at exactly 1:00 p.m. central standard time on May 7, 1991. Born in Skokie, Illinois to two bumbling gits of parents who didn't have a clue what to do with her, I'm amazed at the person she has become.

It wasn't until hours later, while holding her and breathing in her newborn breath that smelled like a turkey on rye with mayo to me, I realized that I'd missed As the World Turns for the first time in ages. It served notice, though I'm not sure I paid sufficient attention to it at the time, that our lives would be completely altered by this child.

As I lay on the birthing bed, waiting to have my humpty dumpty put back together again and hemorrhaging dangerously without my knowledge, I squeezed MathMan's hand until his wedding ring cut into him. I didn't realize how hard I was squeezing him because my attention was on the eyes of my baby who was being cleaned, measured and tested. I swear that kid already knew the score because as she wailed her displeasure at being cold, naked, wet and manhandled by nurses, she stared right at me.

Reading my journals from that time, it's obvious that I wanted a baby because I was bored and lonely. I can't even conjure up a memory of what it feels like to be bored or lonely now. Back then, though, we'd just moved to Chicago after graduating from Indiana University. MathMan was a native. I was a foreigner. As a retail manager, MathMan worked horrendous hours. I was alone a lot. I had a job and a couple of friends, but the only other people I knew were my inlaws. I didn't really hang out with them, not because they weren't nice to me, but because, well, for one thing, they were my inlaws, and because they were busy with their own lives.

One day while shopping for our niece in Carson Pirie Scott, I noticed the baby clothes and, I swear, pastel pink and baby blue light shot from my eyes. I lost the ability to speak in anything but baby talk and I started dressing our male cat Phoebe in baby clothes and pushing him around the block in an old buggy I'd rescued on garbage collection day.

MathMan kept wanting to talk about timing and were we ready for a baby? I dismissed this as so many nonsensical words. I was a woman on a mission.

I wouldn't recommend loneliness and boredom as reasons to have a baby, but for us things turned out pretty well. While MathMan worked hard to keep us sheltered, fed and clothed, The Dancer and I got a hang of the mother/daughter thing by waltzing cheek to babysoft cheek in the sun dappled living room, me swirling across the ocean of blue carpet that covered the floors of the pre-War era apartment. I made up songs and sang them to her. She was a rapt audience until she discovered Barney the Dinosaur.

I watched her as she slept in her hand-me-down crib and whispered empowering words to her. I told her over and over that she was strong and smart and beautiful. I spoke French to her, read poetry and labeled everything as we moved through our days. That's a chair. That's a window. That's a blow up doll. That's an idiot who doesn't know how to drive......

In the middle of the night, I would sit in the rocker that once belonged to MathMan's mother and listen to the mingled sounds of her not so gentle sucking and the sleeping city outside the open windows. I would stroke her cheek with my thumb when she paused and fell asleep before her feeding time was up. Otherwise I'd be up with her and her empty tummy an hour later instead of three hours later.

I tried to imagine who she'd be when she grew up.

The Dancer knew that her charms were unrivaled when it came to her daddy. When MathMan came home from the store at night, she would lean so far over in her bouncy seat trying to get at him, that I worried she would topple. She lured him in with her feigned interest in high-level math as he held her on his lap and read his calculus text books from college to her.

Okay, so she's been selected to win the IB math award for the second year in a row. Maybe she wasn't feigning interest after all.

And here we are today. She's eighteen! What a time in her life. I could write pages about how it's all ahead of her and how excited I am for her future, but that's her story to write. I'm still reeling at the idea that this gorgeous, intelligent, talented girl is the product of my DNA mixed with MathMan's.

So about that college decision - I'm going to go full-tilt brag for a bit. She set a goal of being accepted to every school to which she applied. Mission accomplished. Tulane, University of Georgia, Indiana University, Agnes Scott, George Washington and Brenau University, a small, liberal arts women's college in Gainesville, Georgia. I couldn't be more proud.

Her decision was a lesson in the stark realities of life. It's about the money. Indiana University put her immediately into their honors program and even admitted her so that she could bypass their special freshman program. But out of state tuition costs made it impossible for her to go there. The other schools were financially out of reach, too, except for the University of Georgia, and she didn't really want to go there.

She chose Brenau for all the right reasons. As a Brenau Scholar, she has a full academic scholarship and an additional dance scholarship. She can double major in dance and political science. She'll be only two hours away so we can still complain about the obligations of having to go see her in performances at the school and with the Gainesville Ballet Company.

This is all very important you see, not because I can relive my young adulthood vicariously through her (she is vastly more self-disciplined than I was, so her experience is completely incomprehensible to me), but because that very first time I sat in a darkened theater and watched her perform as a four year old to The Lonesome Little Butterfly, I knew that dance was magic for our daughter. I had no idea that she might one day consider a career in dance, but I could tell by her glowing, smiling face and her natural abilities that dance was her thing. To this day, it still is.

Dance, like sports, is a fickle business, though, and I'm glad that she's planning another career path, as well. Currently, her plan is to follow up Brenau with law school to study environmental law. We'll see, of course. I mean, back in 1984, I was sent to Ball State to become a teacher.

This matters in the context of The Dancer having a successful and comfortable life. One of the reasons we insist that she take out only the very minimum in loans is because we don't want her starting out so far in debt like we did. The other value that we've preached about incessantly is loving and believing in what you do. She can observe her parents and see what a difference this makes. One of us has great passion for his career. The other doesn't. It shows.

It's not all parental altruism, though. The other reason why it's important that The Dancer achieve her goals and have a successful (and hopefully lucrative) career is because it won't be long before Reparations are implemented. And that will coincide nicely with the time we plan to launch the other two into the world. MathMan and I will be ready for the freedom we've been missing since that fateful day when I picked up the little box of baby booties and cooed "Oooh, we need a baby, MathMan. Aren't these cute? I wonder if they have them in ballet slippers......?"

Happy birthday, Chloe, for a million reasons and more, I'm so glad you're my daughter.

Love,

Mom

45 comments:

  1. Beautiful post.
    You have much to be proud of.

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  2. This is so big, this taking off with all the love and guidance she's had from you two. She looks so beautiful in every photo and don't you see yourself at her age when you look at her? So be sure to see your own beauty as well. There is such love in this tribute to her. Nicely done you guys.

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  3. She seems like a pretty cool kid, and that was a lovely tribute to her.
    Like my own mother, how fortunate you were to have a Taurus baby.
    Aren't we the best babies ever?
    :]

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  4. This was a beautifully written tribute to your lovely eldest child. I think you both have done very well indeed and I'm sure she'll use the wisdom and love in ways to enhance her world and yours in the future. Happy Birthday, Chloe, with all the best wishes the world can bestow.

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  5. I'm so relieved she got into a good school and is getting scholarships! One down, two to go. ;0)

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  6. Lisa,
    THAT child is a true beauty. Congrats on such a fab kid.

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  7. Way too cool. What a great tribute to "The Dancer". I remember everything you memtioned except from the "dad" perspective....everything except maybe the "turkey sandwich" aroma....doesn't matter. Your daughter was beatiful then and lovely now. Enjoy!

    PS: My daughter was born early the day of the Reagan asassination attempt. My wife was pissed as all the "soaps" were preempted for the Reagan news coverage after she had given birth.

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  8. What a cutie! You wrote such a touching, warm post here! What a great tribute to a daughter going on to a new beginning in the adult world! Happy Birthday Chloe!!

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  9. Congratulations, Chloe! Sounds like you have a bright future ahead at Brenau. And I love the idea of environmental law in the future.

    Lisa - thanks for sharing the photos. I think my favorite is the one with the heart shaped glasses. Chloe seems have a lifelong habit of sticking out her tongue! ;-)~

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  10. What a beautiful and touching tribute!

    And kudos to you both, and to Chloe, for considering that getting an education shouldn't bankrupt a young person at the beginning of their life as an adult. I made that mistake, too, and would counsel my nephew and niece to avoid student debt as much as possible. Those lucrative job promises don't always pan out.

    As for law school, I hope Chloe will do some work in a law office before she decides to follow that path to the end. She has plenty of time to think about it and do some work in that area to see if she likes it, thankfully. Law school is my biggest regret in life, and I'm still (quite literally) paying for it. Scholarships are more plentiful for undergrad -- I don't know if they exist for law school.

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  11. What a beautiful, touching tribute. Congratulations to Chloe on turning 18 and embracing her exciting future.

    I love your voice, Lisa. The little bits of snark embedded in maternal pride and self-deprecation. I wish that I had a virtual pencil so that I could make checks by all of the little phrases that I particularly admire.

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  12. What a post, really lovely. That is some great kid you have there.

    Happy Birthday and congrats to the Dancer!

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  13. Beautifully written and it appears tht the apple didn't fall far from the tree.

    A small state school is a great choice and one you can both live with.

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  14. Beautifully written for a beautiful family. You have done well mom and dad. You have done well daughter.

    You have reached the first of many milestones and now must spread those wings a little more.

    Happy Birthday and bless you as you reach for the stars and hopefully attain the heavens.

    Good Luck Chloe.

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  15. A beautiful homage to a beautiful young woman, the product of two beautiful people.

    On the whole discipline-while-at-college thing, Moriah once tried to tell me about college life, and I stopped her cold by telling her that stuff I did in college were things she would never learn about me. My fondest hope is that Moriah can tell me everything about her college experiences. . . I bet Chloe will be able to, and you will love her all the more for it.

    You done good, Lisa. Bask a moment in the reflected glow.

    Happy Birthday, Chloe.

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  16. Very cool.
    Dance and Poli-Sci. What a nice balance!
    Congrats.
    Alan

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  17. Wow--beautiful tribute to a beautiful young woman. So glad she will have the means to attend college! As Monkey said, one down and two to go!

    (I'm imagining what your Cupcake/Resident Evil post will look like when she turns 18. HOLY. MOLY.)

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  18. I know she will succeed in dancing. She'll do just as well in Political Science because she has already been exposed to it for so many years with you and MathMan.

    Congrats Chloe.

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  19. Do good parents make good kids, or do good kids make good parents out of us? Kind of a chicken/egg thing, isn't it?

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  20. Glad the Dancer's higher ed has worked out. And just far enough away to be away and close enough if the need arises.

    The title of your post has me scratching my head or ass, whichever I think with. Where did the button go and why??

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  21. Happy birthday to the Dancer.

    (Age 18. That was so long ago.)

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  22. Wow.

    That's a beautiful and loving tribute to your daughter. May there be many more.

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  23. What a wonderful post! Happy Birthday and congratulations on the colleges and the scholarship to the dancer, and congratulations to the two of you!

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  24. Happy Birthday, Chloe.

    Many, Many More to come...

    Lisa, you are awesome.

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  25. Such a nice tribute to her! I must admit to a tear or two as I read your post...

    Now I feel the desire to call my mom,

    Thanks for sharing Lisa, as always you remind me to value what I have.

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  26. you must be so proud of Chloe.

    I like the combination of dance and political science

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  27. This is a beautiful post. Just beautiful. I am sure that your Dancer will treasure it. This, in the long run, is a much better present than whatever you are giving her.
    p.s. I hate that we weren't in Chicago at the same time. We could have gotten into some trouble, I am sure.

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  28. She's a sweet kid. And I wish I could have been more level headed when I was younger. But she has had two wonderful and supportive parents on her side so that may be why she's so steady. As for you and MM: One bird to fly the coop--two more to go.

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  29. What a wonderful saga. HAPPY BIRTHDAY CHLOE!!! I'm so glad that she has made an excellent selection for higher ed. My son was 3 hours from home - which wasn't that far, but far enough!! Better than the thousands of miles he puts between us now!! (grr.) Enjoy the moment.

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  30. Hot damn this was a supreme post of tribute-y goodness. I must, however, chuckle at the two hour thing. But think of the quality Commute Chats that'll come from those road trips!

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  31. Chloe has made me a proud father. We are lucky to that she's a part of our family.

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  32. Ah, you had to go and make me all teary-eyed. Brilliant writing.

    I'm hoping I can write something touching like that in five years. It's been 1.5 months of 13 for Irish Dancer and I'm about full up.

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  33. Happy 18th Birthday, Chloe! You're an adult now, so that means NO MORE CURFEW!! Really, try it.
    .
    .
    .
    (Really? Don't. It was the worst grounding/lecture I ever got: "As long as you live under THIS roof, you will live by MY rules. Yadda yadda, please-just-can-I-slit-my-wrists-already yadda)

    Reparations, huh? Hmmm....

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  34. Congratulations to ALL of you! Well done in raising such a fantastic daughter.

    Stay in college, Chloe - and be sure to balance all of that hard work with friends and fun.

    While I don't have 'heavy duty' contacts, I can introduce you to my cousin. HE is a dancer up north. (He was also one of the Doodlebops on Tour last summer...) :)

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  35. Congratulations; and a very Happy Birthday to your beautiful Chloe!

    :)

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  36. Fabulous post. You and Mathman did good. Really really good. Congratulations, Dancer.

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  37. Congratulations to
    Chloe. And what a great choice -- good school that's close enough to home to make visits easy, far enough away to feel independent and prevent parental hovering (and all parents hover to some extent, even you) and a small liberal arts school instead of humongous impersonal public university.

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  38. I'm a day late.........but this was a great post, and made me think, dang and on a Saturday morning no less. Memories of my own babies flooded my mind,and why did I have them and what were those first moments were like. I can't imagine your pride right now in her academic and dancing success. Accepted on every application.......that is really something! I'll continue to read about this dance you do with your daughter, as it scares me to my bones to imagine my girls in two years, applying to schools and waiting it out and starting the next phase of their lives.
    Happy Birthday again to Chloe and to you Lisa(and Math man) for giving her the tools and the love to soar!

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  39. Happy Birthday to your oldest.

    As a fellow oldest child, I notice some similarities between the two of us. One notable place where we are NOT similar at all is in her fondness for math, which is my foremost weakness.

    But history textbooks? Man, I'm there. And English literature? I began reading some that my mother had kept from college at an outrageously young age.

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  40. lisa, this is so beautifully written and brings back so many memories of my own little ones, the hardships and the joys,thank you for sharing such a personal and poignant part of your life...and happy birthday to your beautiful daughter Chloe...the apple doesn't fall far from the tree!
    xoxox

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  41. This was SUCH a beautiful post! :)

    Happy Birthday, Chloe! :)

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  42. What a wonderful post. Happy Birthday to Chloe! And, as a graduate of another small women's college (Simmons in Boston), I commend her decision to go to Brenau. I got a lot out of college and I really think part of it was the freedom of it being all women - it encourages independence and self-confidence.

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  43. Lovely. you do have a passion for your career though: it just doesn't happen to be your job.

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  44. Nicely done, Lisa. The post AND the spawn.

    Happy Mother's Day. Even if it is half a word.

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  45. Happy Mother's Day! Happy Lisa's daughter's birthday!

    Is there any cake left?

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