I try not to be a braggart when it comes to my kids. There is an extended member of my family who lets us know that her kids are the best at EVERYTHING. She comes to every reunion, every wedding, every party with large photo albums, tucked under her arm, snaring anyone unlucky enough to wander into her radar or too dulled by liquor to stay craftily out of her photo album’s reach. I remember at my dad’s funeral, one of my sisters, (the tough chicks that we are), mumbled in the receiving line as we saw her making her way up to us, “If she has that photo album, I swear I’ll snatch it from her and stomp it into the ground, screaming, ‘No one gives a rat’s ass about your kids!’”
Unbelievably, she had the photo album. And even though we are tough, we are also classy chicks and we don’t cuss in church, at least not in a yelling sort of voice.
But, you see, I have this girl, this really beautiful girl, and she’s constantly reminding me that I haven’t written about her. She bats her hopelessly blue eyes at me and claims its because she’s the middle child, the classic representative of ignored kids everywhere.
I just smile back and say, “Love, you’re talking to the wrong person.”
I don’t swallow that guilt because its non-existent.
I have guilt about a lot of things. I have to, I’m Catholic.
I apologize to the dog, when I leave the house. She looks up at me accusingly. Even she knows about my renowned guilt, playing it to the max with her soft whine and sad eyes.
But guilt for middle child syndrome, no way.
I was the exact middle of 7 children-3 ahead of me-3 behind me. No one understands middle child more than me. I’m not scarred from it, well, except for the broken bone in my arm, a fun party trick, where I watch people shudder after convincing them to “Just go ahead and feel it.” Come to find out, “if you can bend it, it’s not broken,” is an old wives’ tale along the same lines as “put your baby in a bath of rubbing alcohol when it has a fever.”
We were a big family. There were too many other things going on. I knew my place and my place was not to be a bother. The pain went away after a few weeks. It probably explains my high pain tolerance and my reluctance to visit the doctor. “I’m fine. I’ll just soak in a bath of rubbing alcohol.”
So, the middle child syndrome gets no violin strings from me.
I tell her the reason she is not given blog time, is because she gives me no good material. You have to show me the warts, give me something to poke fun at, (the good mom that I am) and I don’t have any of that material when it comes to her because she is…in a word, resplendent.
Another word I love. It is defined as shining brilliantly. And no one word describes my Victoria more than shining brilliantly.
So, here’s where the great aunt with the photo album comes in. I’m going to be that aunt. For today, only for today.
My middle girl was born, a picture-perfect birth, unlike the two sisters who bookend her, who made me vow I would never do THAT again. (I blame it on short-term memory loss.)
As soon as she came into this world, I thought, “Piece of cake.”
She’s been that way ever since.
She was so small when she took her first step, my sister-in-law and I thought we were seeing things when she let go for that first time. But, she did it again and again and again. She was walking at 8 months, running at 9 months, jumping out of her crib at 15 months. I feel like I spent her entire childhood, yelling, “Slow down, Tori. Not so fast!”
But, it’s how it goes with her, ready, always ready to wow the world with her entrances.
She’s tiny with a lion’s spirit, all enormous blue eyes and cupid lips and auburn hair. She is glorious in a way I have never been able to quite capture and if there is one thing she knows, she knows indeed how glorious she is.
This is not to say she’s conceited, not in any way. She has a heart so full of kindness, bounded by no limits, turning everyone who crosses her path into a friend for life. She is a child so full of grace and sweetness, I am often humbled by it.
She is comfortable in her own skin, a quality that most people spend a lifetime trying to grasp. She was born into it and at 14, I can see the light that emanates from her. And I know she will be Queen of the World, in whatever world she chooses to cast her light.
She graduates from her school this next month. The only school she’s ever known since the first grade. She has made her mark there. I see it in the way the teachers light up when they see her coming. I see it in the way, her teacher beams at conference time, telling me this girl has got it goin on. I see it in the hoards of friends she has. I see it in the fact that she is the National Honor Society President. I see it in the way her teacher points with a huge grin on her face to the corner of her wall-to-wall dry-erase board, (Chalk boards have gone the way of typewriters). There in the upper right hand quadrant of the board, it reads, “Tori’s Corner”, scrawled out in my daughter’s handwriting. Underneath, in that same chicken scratch, it proclaims, “Tori is Awesome.” Underneath that bit of braggadocio are Tori’s class reminders, homework instructions, prep for the upcoming day, and inspiring quotes, hand-drawn smiley-faces, peeking out from each missive. The teacher tells me Tori took it upon herself to make that corner on the first day of school and there it has stayed.
I frown at the teacher and at my girl. She tends to take things upon herself at home, keeping us organized, getting us out the door in the morning, pretty much running the show. But, last time I checked, the TEACHERS really, kind of like to run the show at school. And so, I ask if this is a bad thing, this taking it upon herself to write instructions on the board, all teacherly and such.
Her teacher hastens to say, that no this is not a bad thing at all. “She keeps us all on track. She’s the highlight of my day, of everyone’s day around here.”
I know the feeling.
And so now, she goes, off to the big dream of high school.
I have to confess, I’ve been a bit of an overly dramatic, teary mess this week. I’ve got my O-Dawg graduating from high school, getting ready to leave our little family circle for college and I have this other one, graduating from her small, parochial school and going on to bigger things. But, with each child there are different qualms, different reasons for the tears.
My tears for my Victoria are more about loss, my loss. From the moment she took that first step, she has begun the process of walking away.
And as she goes, she is not shy about it. She’s let me know all along the way that our time together is growing shorter and shorter.
She cannot wait for high school. She cannot wait to jump into the giant, hormonal-surged, mix of teenage life waiting for her. She has already informed me that she will never be home and that when she gets her driver’s license, the minute she turns 16, then she will definitely never be home. There is too much involved in being a high schooler and my drama girl plans on being there for every bit of it.
And she cannot WAIT to shed her parochial, plaid uniform.
She’s a glamour girl, as you can tell from her self-portrait. You send her upstairs to clean her room and she’ll come back down ten different times, in ten different ensembles with heels and red lipstick accompanying it, announcing, she’s almost done with the room, but what do I think of this creation? Yesterday, she informed me she’s going to start collecting berets and she will begin a new fashion trend at her new high school. She said this without a doubt in the world.
And she will.
We took the girls to New York City for their first time, a few years back. I booked us, (as much as I hate the tacky feel and hordes of tourists swarming the streets), into a Times Square hotel, high up in the sky. I wanted them to have the full, dazzling billboard experience. It was late when we got to the hotel and we put our bags away quickly and ventured out into the streets for a late night dinner. I will never forget my Victoria, standing there, gazing out at this city and the madness and the drama and the fabulousness that can only be found in The Big Apple. Times Square can be a bit overwhelming, no matter how many times you’ve visited it. But, not for her. She turned to me with eyes sparkling and said, “I’m coming to live here, you know that Mom. I’m not staying with you for long. I can’t. You know that.”
And with an anguished heart, I do.
She will run faster than any of my other children, edging away minute by minute, day by day. My little light who wants to march out into the world, claim her corner and order everyone to follow her, she knows where the good berets are.
My photo album is spread wide and I’ve passed nauseating, I know.
So, keep the Maalox open because I will say she has been a delight, an uncontainable burst of joy in our lives. She has grown from blue eyed baby to a young woman, in moments so fleeting, my eyes well up and my heart tears a little more, every time I realize we’re already here. How little did I know that first time those big blue eyes gazed into mine, how profoundly my life would change, for the good, every sweet day with her, for the good.
She came down the other day in her graduation gown, her mortarboard cap tipped jauntily to the side in Tori fashion. I, of course, once again, burst into tears. She didn’t even flinch. The kids have grown up with a crybaby mother. They’re used to it. As she stood there so ready to go, I could only say, under my breath, my mantra for my little girl, “Slow Down, Tori. Not so fast.”
Today’s Insistent Download: The cherubic voiced, Regina Spektor-“The Call.” I am helping with the graduating class’s slide show, (another reason for tears). I’m assisting the kids as they select the music for their soundtrack. I’ve given my “ahem” suggestions and informed them to give their selections back to me, instead of their teachers. Since, we are a parochial school, the teachers are quite cautious about things like non-Christian music and books about wizardry. I sort of, kind of, have a reputation at that school for um, letting my voice be heard. (A story for another day.) But, since I am appalled at the idea of censorship in the arts, something that religions in general seem to be very good at doing, (another story for another day), I am going around the teachers and letting the kids pick out the music they want to hear. I don’t care what sort of impulses that music might kick in, in their little brains. Hello, David danced before the Lord and it was all good. (Ok, back to basics. Stories for other days.) So, anyway, this Regina Spektor song was one of my suggestions and the kids loved it.
My Victoria loves this song. She swipes my I-Pod along with my heels on a constant basis. She has this sweet voice of her own and she sings, full barreled, with everything she has. Our house is constantly filled with her lofty voice and I love when she sings this Regina song. “I’ll come back when you call me. No need to say good-bye. Just because everything’s changing, doesn’t mean it’s never been this way before…I’ll come back when you call me. No need to say good-bye.”
I only hope so, my darling girl. I only hope so. In the meantime, slow down, for your crybaby mother’s sake.