Monday, June 18, 2007

In difference.

I don’t think the universe wants to keep thwapping me between the eyes in order to teach me a lesson. I just think the universe has learned the subtle message is lost on me; a hard head-flick is the only thing I seem to register.

A few years ago, I was lazing around in my hospital bed, enjoying the fruits of the narco-pharmacology industry when a nurse came in wheeling a cart. On the cart was the eight hour-old reason I was being given all the painkillers private healthcare can buy. The glorious infant was placed in my arms and while she had lunch I basked in her utter perfection. I marveled at her toes. I reveled in her whorls of hair. I examined her ID bracelet like it had been printed by Dürer.

“Look!” I said in wonder to Consort, who was cat-napping in a ludicrously small chair. “They gave her an A-plus. Our daughter is an A-plus baby!”

Consort, wincing, unfolded himself from the chair and hobbled over. He looked at her ID bracelet and kissed my head.

“Quinn,” he said delicately. “I think that’s her blood type.”

“I’m not A-positive,” I spluttered.

“I am,” Consort explained. “It seems she got my blood type,” he added, with just the slightest tinge of paternal pride.

I knew that, but it still struck me as so…unbelievable. This little creature who had lived inside of me, puffed up my feet and put color in my cheeks, this pixie who had demanded en utero that I drive fifteen miles away to get her freshly-made tortillas, had been circulating her own, entirely different blood. In a metaphorical sense she had been keeping her own checking account. In the most physical sense we were two separate people. This was undeniable.

I didn’t deny it. I do, however, continue to be surprised by it.

Daughter resembles me not at all, I am thrilled to say; as far as I am concerned, the sequences of my DNA which affects appearance and allergies should end with me. Daughter is not mother: I got it. And yet when Daughter was small, I kept trying navy-blue dresses on her because I love navy-blue and it comes as close to flattering on me as any color will. On Daughter, with her wildly different skin tones, it doesn’t work. It simply doesn’t work. Yet every single time I would try a navy-blue dress on her, I would think, “Well, that’s odd. Must not be a true navy.”

Yes, that’s the problem: there is a mysterious shortage of true navy-blue dye in the world. The problem couldn’t be that I am an idiot.

It doesn’t stop there. There are books I adored in my childhood which Daughter could take or leave. Being as she is an enthusiastic reader, and being as when it comes to how one spends ones literary time I ardently believe in Chacon a son gout, you’d think I’d just be happy she reads and leave it alone.

Yeah. It’s pretty to think so.

In fact, every six months or so I’ll come strolling into a room where she’s reading and say a little too casually “So…reading, huh? I’ll do some reading as well. Can I join you? Why, I seem to have two books to read. Can’t exactly read two books at once, can I? Say, would you like this copy of ‘Wind in the Willows’? You sure? How about the book on tape, which I just found in my pocket? No? Suit yourself. Let me just sit down here on the couch and….wait a minute, look what I just found under the cushion. Your unread copy of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’!”

Unwatched, my dignity dies quietly in the corner, behind the Aslan sock puppet I’ve made from scratch for just such a spontaneous moment.

It’s not as if we are complete enigmas to one another, a sitcom match-up of defrocked Jesuit priest and thawed Yeti. [Hands off, members of the Writer’s Guild. The idea’s mine!]. She loves Mexican food almost as much as I do. We watch “That’s Entertainment” together with pleasure. We both think pulling over the car to meet a pug walking down the sidewalk is a good use of time. But underneath it all, I must never forget that she and I are different. Because I do keep forgetting it, the universe has to keep head-thwapping me.

Last week, Daughter’s class participated in the upper-school’s graduation. Daughter was terribly excited about this. Daughter immediately started agitating for lipstick and heels. Being as she is not a runner-up for Miss Southern California Teeny Temptress, I vetoed the idea out of hand but did offer what I must say was a brilliant counter-proposal: we could use a curling iron on her hair. Gleefully, she accepted.

And now, a word from my hair:

Straight.

I have the kind of shape-challenged hair that hairdressers speak of to one another in whispers around campfires.

“Did you hear the time Quinn’s hair straightened out a perm? A perm!”

“I hear her hair can straighten your hair just by looking at it…”

“AUGH! The….straightness! It burns!”

So, straight. And not thick enough to have that whole “One quarter Iroquois on my mother’s side, one eighth Chinese from dad” exotic thing; just redefining the industry standard for straight hair straight. I have more experience with hot rollers and curling irons than your average drag queen. I am all too familiar with starting to curl the right side as I watch the left side unspiral in the mirror.

Daughter watched me locate the curling iron, hopping from foot to foot in excitement. “Can we curl my hair tonight? You know, like a rehearsal?” she asked, nearly hiccupping from anticipation.

I started to say no, and then thought, Eh, why not? I need the practice working on a small wiggling model. I agreed. She squealed. The curling iron was plugged in. It less than twenty minutes, I’d created my very own small Breck Girl, all tumbling waves and bouncy flips. I doubt, however, most of the women who worked for the Breck shampoo company heard their hairstylists shrieking “STOP TOUCHING YOUR HAIR!” In my defense, I knew from painful experience that our kind of hair takes any digital contact as an excuse to uncurl even faster. I sprayed lightly, and stepped back to admire the hairdo. I then sent her to bed, kissing her good-night and waving a fond farewell to my follicular handiwork.

The next morning, I heard her feet hit the ground and run across the room where, from years of maternal echo-location, I knew she was checking her hair in the mirror. I braced myself for the moan of disappointment.

“My hair’s still curly!” she yelled in delight.

I shook my head to clear the fog. What? Couldn’t be. This was wishful thinking, like the time she was convinced the cat was pointing out American Girl dresses it wanted to wear. Daughter flew into my room and posed at the door, smiling and tossing her curly hair. Her hair which, I must add, remained sweetly curled the rest of the day through a long and sweaty graduation ceremony.

Okay. Not my hair.

That morning, while Daughter pranced about the house tossing her seemingly eternal curls, the universe grabbed me by the upper arm, leaned in to me and thwapped me between the eyes. “Listen, genius”, the universe (who sounded quite a bit like Denis Leary) said, “She’s. Not. You! I don’t know how many times I’m going to have to hit you, but she’s a different person than you are. She’s going to succeed and fail at different things than you. You can try to think up every single way she could get hurt in this world and plan an end-run around each one and it won’t matter because she’s got a different path...”

Not my blood.

“…The only thing you can do”, the universe continued, “Is to teach her to be a kind and honorable version of the person she is going to be. It’s not your hair, and it’s not your blood, and it’s not your life. You can either learn this now, when it’s only about hair and hobbies, or you can wait until she’s an adult and makes choices that break your heart and confuse the hell out of you because you wouldn’t have made those choices and you still haven’t figured out that she…isn’t...you! Got it?”

Not my life.

“Yes,” I said curtly, rubbing the spot where the universe kept trying to get my attention, “Anything else I should know?”

“Yes. Hand me the navy-blue dress you planned on her wearing today. I don’t feel like coming back in an hour.”

11 Comments:

Blogger houseband00 said...

Beautiful, Quinn, as usual! =)

A Happy Father's Day to the Consort. =)

1:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a beautiful, wonderful post! Thank you so much for a perfect read.

Susannah

2:00 AM  
Anonymous skerrib said...

Ah, if my mom could've read this post 30 years or so ago...love it.

8:24 AM  
Anonymous k said...

If my mother could have read it... and if I can remember it 15 minutes from now....

9:56 AM  
Anonymous KimB said...

thanks for the thwap -- well written and so true!

10:03 AM  
Anonymous Sara K. said...

The universe was so concerned that I wouldn't get this not me point that it gave me a boy, just to be sure. It's working, mostly.

Beautiful writing as always. Thank you.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Valerie said...

your posts always make me smile...or cry...or smile through the tears. thanks for another great read!

6:16 PM  
Anonymous Jeff said...

Wow. Thanks!

6:50 AM  
Anonymous rebecca said...

Damnit Quinn!

Ouch!

That thwap I just got better not leave a mark...although, maybe it would be beter for Daughter and myself if it did. :-)

(I looked at my kid in the plastic box, with her bold B- on her card and wondered what I had done wrong.)

3:00 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

I'm a Meyers/Briggs INTJ. My daughter is an ESFP. Could we BE more opposite?

We have NOTHING in common. But, we get along great.

In six weeks she will be having a daughter.

Ohhhhhhhhhhh! This is going to be SO fun!

Differences make life, shall we say, interesting.

Great post.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hiya,
I'm hoping my comment reaches you. My daughter, now living in Prague sent me the link to your blog. I live in Australia. Does that count as having registered the universe and universal thwap?
Seriously though, I liked your blog - it says so many thing succinctly, and damn it all, nearly all of them are true for all of us.
Thanks for the reminder, Vivienne

6:00 PM  

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