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.

20 comments:

  1. Although I have known of your children for as long as I have known you, I read each post with such delight. I was waiting to see how you would handle this one - and you did (as usual) not disappoint!

    As someone who has read your work for over 3 years now, I am struck by how your work has matured and deepened. You were a good writer then. You are a far better writer today.

    As for Chloe, Nathan and Sophia... you have remarkable children. I am not surprised. I have truly loved re-meeting them on these pages. Thank you. Beautifully done!

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  2. I feel as though I've watched her grow up.

    I'm as proud of the job you've done as you are of her.

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  3. Beautifully written. But with the trademark Lisa humor. :-)

    As Fran says, it's been delightful to read your posts. I just throw my posts out there for the world to see, and when I come across your finely crafted words, well, you inspire me, P.T.!

    (Not with the kid thing, though. That's all yours!)

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  4. Wow. Chloe is MUCH smarter than I was at her age. You've done an excellent job!

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  5. Love it! Isn't it lovely to reflect on their progress and know they are on their way?
    B
    The Middle Ages

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  6. This one was another pure delight to read. Urban legend, indeed :-)

    Not only do you have amazing children but your writing does just get better and better.

    Civil rights lawyer, eh?

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  7. A lawyer? Please make sure that she watches this video before she takes the LSAT.

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  8. Awesomely beautiful...
    I hope one day to write Boo Boo getting her IB diploma, the school she will start at next fall is an IB elementary.

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  9. Love this post. I've enjoyed reading about Chloe over the years, and I hope that Josie makes me as proud as Chloe makes you. She sounds like an extraordinary young woman.

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  10. Your love for your children totally chokes me up with sympathetic momma love. Whatever self-deprication may say to you in the wee hours, you have modeled a lot of strength to all of us. I am sure that if Chloe becomes a civil rights lawyer, it's partly due to your good influence.

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  11. Well, I was all tear-ified and proud of you and Chloe and -- oh, just verklempt. And then I read about your juxie. And I was even MORE impressed! You rock, girl.

    By the way, Chloe has a story similar to my two nieces, who did dance since they were wee ones up to college, doing competitions all over the country; and then graduated high school way ahead of everybody else; followed by university, one to ASU and one to U of A on scholarships. Dancing is an incredibly healthy and positive experience for them. Gets them on the right path to being all they can be, for sure.

    xo I'm proud of Chloe too.

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  12. Thank you all for the lovely comments. These pieces have been great fun to write.

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  13. Dear Lisa, it is such a pleasure getting to know your children through these posts. You are not only an amazing writer, but an excellent photographer, and most of all, a wonderful mother with interesting, good looking and accomplished children. Your cup runneth over!

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  14. Wow. Your Chloe is a total knockout. Smart, driven, beautiful. Y'all are truly blessed.

    May ALL of her dreams come true!

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  15. Oh man, that's the best conception story I have ever heard. Beats the hell out of my Fourth of July fireworks saga.

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  16. These have been delightful; guess you'll need to adopt another child so you can keep writing about them.

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  17. Comrade Misfit: Great video. Thanks. And I second the comment. Do have Chloe look at that.

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  18. Those last couple of lines made me sniffle a little bit. Beautiful post and beautiful daughter and you are a beautiful writer.xoxo

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  19. This was gorgeous Lisa! I love how you talk about your kids--you're much more generous than I am about it. I will need to find the one for your son, too--must have happened in the chaos of my early week. Chloe sounds amazing, and her future will definitely be very bright.

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