The Luckiest
Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I have a bad habit of keeping my cell phone in the car when I'm at home. I always figure if someone needs to call me that desperately, they know my home digits and they know with my super important, busy life, I'm always home with the 3 dogs and the laundry, trying to ignore all of their whiny needs. 

I always forget about this one thing, though. 

The texting. 

And we all know kids are not supposed to be texting from school. Just like we all know that kids DO text from school. My girls don't abuse the forbidden texting. I can tell you this from their cell bills. In fact, my Julia, who's still used to the Catholic school enforcements and an extreme rule abider, never texts me. 

My Victoria will text to inform me she's staying after school for one activity or another or to tell me she forgot her lunch and can I pllleeeeaaase bring her some McDonalds!!! Or there was the one time she brought me to instant tears with her text, "Just wanted u 2 no Mom, I luv u very, very much.

These kids. They know how to ravish my heart and completely undo me, that's for sure.

The other day around 1:00,  I needed something out of my car. As I stretched across the seat to reach for it, I heard the familiar ring of my text. Picking up my phone, I was stunned to see a text from my Julia— my rule follower—my good girl—the one who is always the odds on favorite to do exactly what is expected of her. Every. Single. Time. 

As I read her words, I could barely breathe. 

It started out with "Mommy Mommy."

To my great regret, I haven't been Mommy for a few years now. With a house full of teenagers and one pre-teen I have evolved into Mom. 

Mommy is when they're sick. Mommy is when they're upset. Mommy is when they're scared. 

Mommy. Mommy.

Something was very wrong in her little girl life. 

It went on to say, "We took a test and this kid cheated off of me and idk how I got the answer and i think im going to get a zero cuz she thinks its me and im gonna cry"

My heart again, stripped raw. 

I didn't know what to do, since she'd texted me this at 10:00 that morning and whatever terrible misunderstanding there'd been, had already gone down. I tried to remain calm. 

I called Debbie, the voice of reason and my guide in this new school of ours. Trying to keep my voice from wobbling I read her the text. She was her usual soothing, logical self, telling me it was probably a matter of someone cheating off of Julia and Julia just thinking she was in the same boat of trouble as the other kid. She told me to just sit tight and wait until the end of the day to find out the real scoop. 

The end of the day was over 3 hours away, an anguished amount of time when you know your little girl needs you to make it all right. 

And I know, I know Internet, you're thinking, "Well, she's certainly making a mountain out of a little pile of mush."

But, here's the thing: The New School has not been without a few bumps on this divergent path of her little life. It's tough to be the new kid coming into a class in the smack-dab middle of the school year. It's even tougher when it's Jr High, where the toxic combination of brash immaturity and hormones-gone-wild, morphs the vast majority of middle schoolers into major assholes. A tough age for any kid, even tougher for a shy, sweet girl in glasses.
Now, don't get me wrong, she LOVES her new school. She loves it. But, I don't think she really understood that for a little while, she would feel overwhelmed, scared, lonely and out of place. 

For a little while. 

On the nights when the new school fears were too big for her little heart, I would rock her and tell her how proud I was of her— of her bravery as she left my car every day and went back again and again into that big world of new teachers, new classes, new kids. She cried on some nights and I put on my strong, encouraging smile when all I really wanted to do was break down and cry big tears with her. 

Because, no matter what happens in my girls' lives, I will forever want to be Mommy and I will always want to safeguard their tender hearts from pain; Even though I know my Mommy role has slipped away and my job now as Mom is to help them find their OWN courage to guard their hearts. 

It's harder to be Mom. Of that, I am convinced. 

I told her on those weepy nights that life will always be full of beginnings and those beginnings can be like stepping off the high dive into the depths of a seemingly, bottomless pool. I told her that fear is only a moment and the only way to deal with fear is to close those eyes and just take that big leap. Because, every change, every chance, every new step will take her higher and closer to a life well lived. 

And I valiantly hope none of my girls take that safe path in life, that path of least resistance. It is only the matter of finding the courage that lies within each of their mighty souls. 

Knowing that my girl had just started to find her way in her new school, her text had me panicked, no matter how sensible Debbie's words were.

I did then what I always do whenever I've got trouble— I called my sister. 

When she picked up the phone, my dam of tears burst. I read her the text through my hiccups. I questioned why I had pulled her out of her little school, the only one she had ever known, the place where no one would ever doubt my girl's honesty. 

My sister did her best to calm me and advised me to meet Julia after school instead of letting her head for the car pool, in case I needed to meet with the teacher, but even more importantly to be there to wrap my little girl into the safe folds of her Mommy's hug. 

Then she gave me the best advice of the day, the kind of advice that only the person who knows me well would give. "See if you can find something, anything that isn't low-cut to wear, even if you have to borrow it."

I dried my tears and found a turtleneck and a blazer. Thank God it's cold around these parts, because the turtleneck's all I've got for appropriate conference-wear and off I went in my covered body. 

On the way there, I thought about what I could say to this teacher, how I could best defend my daughter, a child she doesn't really know yet. By this time of the year, the teacher, I'm sure, has a firm grasp on the other kids, but my Julia had only been there a short few weeks and with her quiet ways, there probably wasn't much for the teacher to go on. 

I could tell the teacher that this girl of mine would rather die than cheat. 

I could tell her that my Julia insisted on doing all her homework and turning it in, the day we pulled her out of her old school, even after her sister tried to tell her it wouldn't matter in terms of her grade. Julia insisted, because "it was the right thing to do." 

I could let her know that my 12-year-old daughter just put her Barbies away a few months ago, and that this Christmas, she insisted with her hopeful face, pleading for me to say it was so, that Santa WAS real and he WAS coming to her house. 

And, of course, I told that girl of utter sweetness that Santa was definitely coming to bring her surprises for a girl who still believes in the magical mysteries of childhood. 

I could pull out Julia's picture and tell her teacher, that every time I see this photo, I tear up a little at the utter gentleness so vivid there in her little freckle face.

I could tell her that this little girl climbs into the car every day, every single day, bursting with the excitement of what she has learned in her day, filling the car with all her facts and newly learned knowledge. 

I could tell her that every day when she gets home from school, she heads for the johnboat and gets lost studying the drifting tadpoles and little squirmy creatures that inhabit the lake. 

I could tell her that I scream at her sisters and they answer back with teenaged souls full of fiery sass. But, with one cross word to my littlest, she is crushed, her tender soul so hurt by the smallest angers. That I do not yell at my Julia. She does not need it. And she never sasses back. 

I could tell her that most night she finds her way in the dark to the cozy safe spot snuggled between her parents because, she says, "I wake up alone and I feel better when I'm with you."

I could tell her that my 12-year old girl-child helped birth 5 puppies without even a squeal, that when I was busy saving a bleeding pup, she was bringing the rest of the litter into this world with a quiet confidence, helping me to stay calm. 

I could tell her teacher that my girl has an ENORMOUS collection of stuffed animals and almost every one of them she claims came from her grandpa, one of the first loves of her little life. And that I always nod and tell her that yes indeed, that one, too came from Grandpa, because it makes his heartbreaking loss a little easier for all of us.  

I could tell her that I have to pry Julia's troubles from her because she doesn't ever want to be a bother to me, this third child of mine. 

I could tell her that the zero would mean nothing in her life. It would be the fact that this sweet, virtuous girl, just trying to do her best and make her way as the new kid, would be so utterly traumatized from being accused of something she would never, ever do. 

I could tell her that this is Julia Claire, sent down from the heavens above and no tender or sweeter or truer a soul could one wish for in a daughter.  

I could tell her all these things, but it ended up I didn't have to. 

I was parked in the back parking lot waiting for the bell to ring. As soon as it did, I phoned her. She answered with a cheery hello. 

I asked her with my heavy heart how things had turned out and she answered me brightly, "Oh, fine, fine."

It turns out Julia had gotten a problem wrong on her test, a problem where they had to show their work. She said her answer was, "completely off-base." The boy sitting next to her got the same random answer. The teacher announced it was obvious one of them was cheating and that person would definitely be getting a zero. 

The teacher called Julia to her desk and asked her to explain her answer. In the throes of panic, Julia could not explain. Plus, she told me she wasn't even sure HOW she got the answer, thus, the reason for the wrong answer. She said, "I don't know how I got the answer, but I can tell you I didn't cheat. I would never, ever cheat." And then randomly, "My mom doesn't even let me chew gum." She says she doesn't know why she said that, but it just seemed to fit. 

Julia felt like the teacher didn't buy her story about the gum or the cheating and she was so upset until after class when her sweet, true friend told Julia, she'd stuck up for her and told the teacher she would vouch for Julia and the fact that she would never cheat. 

The teacher said, "I know she wouldn't."

I said to Julia as all the angst left my body, "Maybe, next time you send something that disturbing, you could send a followup saying, 'All good'. You know, so your mother won't have a stroke!"

And Julia answered, "Mom, we're not allowed to text at school!"

The teacher followed up the whole cheating ordeal with a lovely email, telling me she knew Julia had never been the one cheating. She also let me in on the fact that Julia is a complete joy to have around. 

I know the feeling well. 

Today's Definite Download: Ben Folds, "The Luckiest." I love this song. I mean, I LOVE this song. It is so simple and utterly lovely. A love song, for my Julia because I am the luckiest. 

And where was I before the day
That I first saw your lovely face?
Now I see it everyday
And I know

That I am
I am
I am
The luckiest


Lisa said...

Oh - This one brought tears to my eyes. I know exactly how you felt. I think sometimes that we moms feel things so much more than our babies do!

I'm so glad everything turned out OK, but so sorry that you had to go through all that stress!

MyMomfessions said...

that was beautiful i hardly get through most long posts without skipping around a bit but i read the entire thing..thanks for the bits of humor in between

Dawn in D.C. said...

Aww, what a nice story! I feel that way about my youngest, too. He's my "free-spirit" and I refuse to let anyone make him conform.

And he calls me Mommy.

ProudSister said...

No truer words have ever been spoken. She is such a light in all of our lives. I'll never forget her singing "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" for her Grandpa or "Elevation" for the rest of us, all while thrashing around her head full of curls. She also coined my hubby's nickname of "Stinky" when she was about 5.

I was ready to hop a plane down there to kick that teacher's ass last week. Junior high sucks for so many reasons, there's no way around that. I hope she makes the most of it & knows there are so many better times just around the corner. We love you Julia! You have all of our hearts.

LisaPie said...

Awwww, that was the sweetest love letter I have ever read. So precious. Thanks for sharing that child with us!

Sandra said...

Beautiful post! Your daughters are so lucky and blessed to have you as their mother!

MrsBlogAlot said...

Oh mama! I was on that emotional roller coaster right up there with you sister!! Only a mother can truly feel all those twisting sharp turns and heart wrenching drops.

We have so much emotion wrapped up in our kids. It makes me wonder what I felt at all "before".

Puppy love? Boyfriend love? Husband love? Pffft! Not even close!!!


l i z said...

Hi Joann,
i came over from cjane's blog. just wanted to say i loved your comment there! it really touched me. what an incredible story!
and you are so right; we are all one. we are all God's children.
thanks for sharing.

gingertea said...

I hopped on over to your blog because I loved your comments on cjane. It made me cry. As did this most recent post on your blog. I will save your blog to favorites and jump on over here more often. Bless you for having such a tender heart and posting such sweet things about your little girl.

Anonymous said...

I am simply speechless. That was so beautiful and well put about your daughter.

She sounds like my older one (age 10)

She has a cell phone too and brings it when she goes to her dad's house 2x a month. Sometimes I get texts like "I really miss you" and then I just die a slow death waiting to hear back and then after a few hours she is all happy, happy, joy, joy and I have meanwhile sweated through a few t-shirts!

Sometimes, technology sucks.

BTW, I love how you had to scramble for something appropriate to wear - I have a t-shirt that says "You are so annoying" and I only wear it around to clean the house, but once I had to run up to school and OOPS! I was wearing that!

Joann Mannix said...

Girl Next Door: I've got a t-shirt that reads, "Shoe Slut". No lie! I also have one that has the classic Bruce quote, "Just wrap your legs round these velvet rims and strap your hands across my engines." And yes, I got called to school, CATHOLIC school, for a sick child, forgetting I had that one on. Oh well, no one will ever accuse me of being traditional.

Everyone: thank you all for your beautiful comments. They make my day!

Shelley said...

Oh man, I hate the panicked text messages from school. And then you sit and worry and fret about it, and by the time you pick them up, they're all, "What? Oh that, no big deal."
I loved this post for the same reason you liked mine. I don't want to lose that last one. And every time I think about it, I get sad, because I KNOW what's coming. Sometimes I wish I didn't know.

Momfluential said...

awww. I have a pure of heart type dd too. Close in age. That was such a sweet and heartfelt post! I'm with you on the "Mommy" thing. My 13yo still calls me this and I am soooo glad.

Suburban Correspondent said...

Oh, no! Our youngest (who is 4) still climbs inbetween us in bed every single night. Are you telling me that she will still be doing that 8 years from now?

Julia sounds lovely - a wonderful youngest child. Would you believe, most of my other kids still call me "Mommy," but my youngest says "Mom"? Go figure.

Carina said...

This is kind of off-topic, but I came here from Cjane's blog. I just wanted to say that your story of your parents and the mega-church across the street made me cry. It was such a beautiful story. And I think you're right: that's where true Christianity is born.

Noelle said...

I found your blog through CJanes, and I'm now sitting in my office at work with tears streaming down my face.

That was possibly one of the most beautiful things I have ever read.

Thank you so much for sharing!!!

I think I'll stick around your blog. I'm a fan!

Carina said...

p.s. Laundry hurts my feelings, too.

Target Steve said...

Joann, that was a beautiful post and Julia will want to save it forever (and will definitely want to bring it out if she ever does something really bad).

My son is 13 and I feel your angst about this whole Jr High thing. Things do start to get weird and we are just on the brink. He still gives me a hug every day because it is a rule at our house. If they ever stop I will die a little inside.

Tiffaney said...

Julia is a precious, amazing little girl. And you are an even more amazing mom, champion, best friend and cheerleader. I found myself wishing you were MY mommy!! ;)

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