Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Love Is Calling Me
Part three of my series introducing or reintroducing the people who make my life interesting.
When I first started blogging, I tagged Chloe with the unimaginative The Eldest. Before long, I realized that I should call her what she was - The Dancer. Ballet consumed her life from the age of 15 until the Spring of this year when she decided that the life of a dancer was not her future.
I threatened to call her Ed Begley, Jr. Junior because she was hectoring the hell out of us about our carbon, but that turned out to be rather short-lived thing. Thank goodness.
As our first child, Chloe served as our test subject. She endured our youthful ineptitude, absorbed and exceeded our highest expectations, and both paved the way and set the bar absurdly high for her siblings.
Not only did she survive our parenting, she managed to become the young woman I wish I could have been. She's driven and focused. At nineteen, she has a much better understanding of her strengths and weaknesses and a clearer vision of her future than I think I've had in all my years.
For all she has going for her, she is still insecure. She has moments of self-doubt that make my heart hurt. She procrastinates. When I am around to provide maid services, she is a slob. She stresses herself out. She possesses judgmental tendencies that make me want to slap her sometime, but I don't hit my kids. My threats to deliver karate chops stopped at the threat stage. Sadly, my verbal assaults probably have left deeper scars than any spanking could have.
So a few basics about Chloe. She's a sophomore at a small, private women's college here in Georgia. She attends on a full ride academic scholarship and works two jobs. Over the summer, she waited tables at the local, fabulous barbecue joint and probably learned everything she'll need to know in order to make it in any workplace - teamwork, office politics, pacing, and patience. She's an ADPi and I think it's safe to say that belonging to the sorority has been incredibly good for her since she's a loner like me.
She didn't date much in high school. Instead, she traveled in a herd of dancers and theater people which suited her and her jam-packed schedule. (She didn't just graduate from high school, she also received her IB diploma, a great source of pride.) Over the summer she dated a really nice guy, but they recently broke it off. I think being in a relationship is more of a commitment than Chloe wants right now. As much as I hated to see the pain this caused her boyfriend, I understood and rather envied her resolve to look out unapologetically for number one. That's a skill I still haven't mastered.
When I enrolled Chloe, age 3, in the Galina Dance Studio in Des Plaines, Illinois, I had no idea how that single act would send her on a journey that would shape her life and her life choices. As MathMan and I sat in the darkened auditorium on Father's Day 1994 and watched her and the other Lonesome Little Butterflies do the shake, shake, shake, shake, shake with their little tutu'd tushies, I could not have guessed that we would one day sit in another darkened auditorium watching a grown up Chloe dance on pointe as Clara in a ballet company's production of the Nutcracker.
After her epiphany about dance, Chloe announced that she is going to explore the idea of becoming a civil rights lawyer. I couldn't be more proud and excited for her. She was made for this. Even as a child, she would become furious at the injustices meted out by the adults in her life - parents and teachers especially. Her least favorite teachers were the ones who punished the whole classroom for one child's misbehavior. "Just go along, keep your mouth shut..." I'd lamely advise.
She was never satisfied with that answer. She learned how to advocate, often effectively, for change.
I hope she uses her intelligence and advocacy abilities to help people and do good work. I can't think of a better way to make a living. I also know that she'll probably change her mind many times. I'm just thrilled that she's actually thinking about her future. When I was nineteen, I didn't have that kind of self-awareness. I didn't think much about how my decisions would affect my future. As a result, the best gift I've given my children is the cautionary tale that has been my hapless, mess of a life.
Even my decision to become a mother was capricious. In our family, how Chloe came to be has taken on the flavor of urban legend. Except that it's true.
Today, as we watch Chloe move away from the cozy center of our family and into her own orbit, I'm confident that I did the right thing. As a skeptic, it's hard for me to attribute anything to supernatural forces, but if there is some force guiding us, it was there on that hot August night when I snatched the used condom from MathMan, bit it and, without a moment's hesitation, jammed it right up my juxie while MM watched, appalled and dumbfounded. I had no idea that the sperm who made its way through that latex obstacle course to find that ripe egg would result in such an amazing (if I may say so) person.
"I'm pregnant," I announced later that night, but MathMan was already asleep. Forty weeks later, the midwife held Chloe up for me to see. While the nurses cleaned her up and the doctor moved in to stop my hemorrhaging, she wailed with a fury that would predict how she'd react to future injustices. And all the while she looked right at me as if to say "Somehow you are responsible for this."
In that moment, I realized that I had never loved anyone so much in my life and nothing would ever be the same.