|One helluva masterpiece.|
Her eyes, encircled in dark mascara and eyeliner, sparkle at me. It finally comes to pass. Three states, six schools, and countless boxes of macaroni and cheese later, her skirts are shorter, her tights are tighter, her ambitions, grander.
The day she came home, long ago, my head ripened with thoughts of firsts. First night of unbroken sleep (please soon), first bite of real food (mush), first word (no). The days widened and narrowed. She walked and talked. I followed and worried. I watched my independence give way to parental obligation. I left a job; she threw a ball; I took less and less notice of the news and more and more notice of her schooling. She grew and my world shrunk.
You throw yourself into something or it’s not worth doing. I would teach her: Quitting left everyone unhappy.
“Take that soccer ball and KICK it!”
“Read or there’s no TV tonight!”
“Play with your sister or else!”
“And, for God’s sake, share!”
There’s taking in the act of giving. If there’s no receiver, giving doesn’t work. Her young hands and open mind took from me. The good parts mostly. But, also the guilt. Have I done enough? And, the resentment. You take too much.
Her nose touches mine without her standing on tiptoes. I pretend to shrink and use a cane today, in my best granny voice, joking, “Don’t worry about me, my pretty. Just hand me my shawl.”
She looks away now more than looks up. She’s taller by an inch and a half. It’s a mountain to me, a skyscraper of “I hope...” and “I dream...” She uses her assertive sense of self as a metaphysical yardstick. Her eyes reflect words she doesn’t speak: “I’m done taking from you.” But, me, knowing, can see the marks I’ve already made.
Every birthday of mine growing up, my dad used a ruler to measure me against the door jamb in the kitchen. Pencil in hand, he’d stand up my brother and me and lay the ruler flat on our heads to the back of the wood. There, he’d mark the spot and write our age, making a scritch-scratch of lead on the wood.
I look him in the eye today.