Editing Note: I was writing another post for today and midstream I realized I had a more appropriate story for today. I went to hit save but instead hit publish. I deleted it from my blog, but I guess it stays in Google Readers? So, if you have half a story, sorry. And sorry Anita, (thank you for letting me know) but that story will wait for another day.
Today needs to be about other things.
First of all, I need to say, I'm sorry I haven't been around much in the past week or two. I'm really trying to find some balance and balance has been the most elusive thing in my life these days.
Lately, I've been feeling like one of those wild salmon, who spend their entire fish life battling the current, trying valiantly to swim upstream. That's me this month.
You've heard of March Madness. We've got August Insanity around here.
We've been so busy trying to cram in summer, that now, we're here at the end and I've pretended to ignore the dwindling days for long enough. This is Get Busy week.
This is the week of new pencils and pens and jeans for everyone. And where I have to go into that store, that awful store where the music is way too loud and it's so dark you can't see the clothes to tell if they even fit and my girls hate it because I am compelled to say every time to the kids working the cash register, "Do you have hearing loss? Is your mom worried about your exposure to this ridiculously loud music?"
Because my kids pride themselves on having a cool mom, I think. And that, Mister, is not cool.
And I like my music and I like it loud, but not when I am buying clothes. Clothes shopping is a sacred thing and the music should always be fabulous, but not too jarring and definitely not so loud that it takes away from the supreme pleasure of slipping on a pair of jeans that fit just right.
And then, today, there's my Birthday Girl.
My Tori, my sweet girl, turns 16 today.
We already threw her a bash this weekend where we took her, her sisters and 8 of her dearest friends to the beach for the weekend.
Joy of joys.
Actually, it was fun and the girls frolicked and got a little sunburned and made a mess and were loud and giggly and raided the condo's kitchen at 5:00 a.m. and squealed like, a lot and popped the circuit they had so many straighteners plugged in when they were getting ready for dinner (seriously, every bathroom was filled with teenage girls and every single outlet in all those bathrooms had a hair appliance plugged into it) and yes, fun was had by all.
Birthdays around here mean grand times.
And I have always begun my girls' birthdays with a cake made by my hands, uh, with a little help from Pillsbury— a cake topped with candies and strawberries and pink spun sugar sprinkles and whatever their birthday hearts' desire and in the morning of their birthday, I wake them up with their cake, sparkler candles aglow and we eat cake for breakfast.
Because that's how birthdays should begin—with sparkler candles and delicious cake.
And then we have shopping today and movies and just basking in the glory that is my Tori.
And that is a lot of glory.
So, for today, I'm going to give you just a quick story.
About my Tori girl.
We called her Danger Girl for the first few years of her life.
She walked at 8 months. I believe she started running at 8 months, 1 day. She climbed to the top of her crib, balanced on the rail and jumped out at 18 months. She split her chin open, and when I say split her chin open, I mean her chin bone was sticking out of her chin, because when Tori jumped on a bed, it became an Olympian sport. And when she fell, her chin ricocheted off her wooden headboard.
She was 3.
She has always done everything with a fierce might.
This is how she looked during most of her childhood.
And yet at the same time, that girl with eyes the color of sapphires, always wants to be the good girl. She works hard for her constant A's. She tries out for everything. She plays hard on the soccer field. She strives to be the best, the very best girl she can be at all times.
I don't know where she gets it from. I mean, we are slacker parents. We're not standing over her with a whip and a book. We're the ones saying, "Put down the math review. You've been studying long enough. Let's go play."
But Tori is diligent and fierce and kind and winsome and outgoing and she has the innate gift of being comfortable in her own skin. There is not a shy, self conscious bone in that girl's body and she is as comfortable talking to the principal of her school as she is talking to her best friend.
Needless to say, teachers and pretty much all other adults love her.
I can't tell you how many times a teacher has told me during a conference or just in passing, "That Tori is one of my favorites. There's just something about her . . . "
And I can only agree. There is just that something about her. And it is extraordinary.
But there was this one time she got in trouble. And I will never forget it. Mainly because Tori doesn't get in trouble, but also too . . .
Well, let me just tell you.
She was probably about 10. She was at school, the only school she'd ever known and she loved her little school.
But there was this one teacher's aide and his job was playground monitor. A big job, for sure. A big job that must come with a lot of pressure, especially if you run that playground like a Nazi soldier.
Which he did.
For today, we will call him Mr. Magoo, you know to protect his identity and all.
And why Mr. Magoo had the job of playground monitor, I still cannot fathom. He claimed he was allergic to the sun. So, that's the kind of job you should go for when you're allergic to the sun, a monitor of a treeless playground in Florida? He wore his big khaki safari hat and zinc oxide constantly and one day I realized that the zinc was actually darker than his skin. And maybe he was taking his allergic frustrations out on the kids, but his playground rules were a little stringent to say the least.
The first bit of ridiculousness about him was that he had this giant clanging bell and he would run around the playground in his big safari hat and fluorescent skin and big old people wrap around sunglasses even though he was about 30 years too young for those kind of specs and he would chase after kids, all a-clanging his bell. It was actually quite humorous to watch, to be honest. I caught him in the act a couple of times, in hot pursuit of a boy ( it was always boys) who were running as fast as they could away from Mr. Magoo and his clanging bell.
The kids were not allowed to play soccer because he felt there was too much roughhousing. Seriously? I mean, it's not like we were playing in Europe. It's American soccer with grade schoolers, how much roughhousing could there be?
They were not allowed to raise their voice because I guess they would disturb the . . . air? And I know when I was pent up in school all the day, the first thing I wanted to do was yell. Kind of like William Wallace, "FREEDOM!"
They were not allowed to swing from the monkey bars, only using them "with purpose" meaning they could scramble across the monkey bars and then "exit safely."
They were not allowed to play tag after a kid got knocked down.
Knocked down. He didn't even get hurt.
Do you know when I was a kid, the top playground games were Dodgeball and Red Rover? And both of them involved getting hurt. That was kind of the object of the game. And then of course, there were the games we played at home. We had Lawn Jarts. You know the giant darts you throw in the air, propelling them like a missile into the hoop on the ground.
My brothers used to play Dodgeball with Jarts. Yes, they did. I can remember running as fast as I could away from the speeding giant Dart. It truly is a miracle that we survived our childhood with all of our eyes intact.
The only things deemed safe by Mr. Magoo were hopscotch, 4-square and swinging.
Mr, Magoo's rules had always seemed a little extreme to me. But it never bothered me too much since I had girls and girls are quite content to swing or play a little hopscotch.
That is, until the day, my Tori got in the car, big crocodile tears in her blue eyes, sobbing, "I goooot in tr-tr-trouuuuble."
Seems that during playground time, Tori had hopped on a swing and being Tori she had pumped and pumped and pumped her legs, trying her best to meet the big blue sky above her.
Mr. Magoo, came scurrying over to her, ringing his bell and started yelling at her to stop swinging at once. Which my 10-year-old Tori did. And then he pulled out his clipboard, demanded her name and informed her he was reporting her to the principal for . . . are you ready?
That's right. My daughter was swinging frantically.
And as the words, "swinging frantically" fell out of her mouth in between brokenhearted sobs, I just started to howl with laughter. I couldn't help myself.
Tori, was of course, beside herself. She had gotten in trouble. It didn't matter why. She was in trouble and in her eyes, there was no greater sin.
When she got to the part about being reported to the principal, I said, "hang on just one little second, Tori."
Because in times of trouble all Tori can see is the bad. She'd forgotten the part where I was on the board that hired our principal. She'd forgotten the part that I had stood at our principal's side as we built the school. She'd forgotten the part that over the years, the principal, Mrs. Mary Liddy and I had become fast friends.
I picked up the phone and dialed Mary's cell. She picked up on the first ring. When I explained to her that I had a sobbing child in my car so afraid of the ramifications of swinging frantically, this Irish lady who had overseen some of the toughest schools on the south side of Chicago also burst into laughter.
After she was able to catch her breath, she said, "Put Tori on the phone."
Mr. Magoo didn't last too much longer on playground detail.
To this day, we still tease Tori about the only time she ever got in trouble— for swinging frantically.
Happy Birthday to my beautiful Victoria. May your days be filled with joy and goodness and may you always keep that light, that incomparable Tori light that shines so brightly. We love you girl, even if you are a juvenile delinquent.
Today's Definite Download: "Don't Rain On My Parade" by Glee. I used to love that song when I was Tori's age. My parents would play their Barbara Streisand albums over and over and I just loved the drama of that song.
Tori loves it, too and in Tori fashion, she sings it at the top of her lungs all over the house.
And this, this song is just the essence of Tori because no one will ever rain on Tori's parade.
Don't tell me not to live, just sit and putter
Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter
Don't bring around a cloud to rain on my parade
Don't tell me not to fly, I simply got to
If someone takes a spill, it's me and not you
Who told you you're allowed to rain on my parade.
I'll march my band out, I'll beat my drum
And if I"m fanned out, your turn at bat, sir
At least I didn't fake it, hat, sir
I guess I didn't make it
But, whether I'm the rose of sheer perfection
A freckle on the nose of life's complexion
The Cinderella or the shine apple of its eye
I gotta fly once, I gotta try once
Only can die once, right sir?
Ooh, life is juicy, juicy and you see,
I gotta have my bite, sir.
Get ready for me love, cause I"m a comin
I simply gotta march, my heart's a drummer
Don't bring around the cloud to rain on my parade.
Posted by Joann Mannix at 12:10 PM