The Day Swinging Became A Crime
Tuesday, August 17, 2010

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?

Swinging frantically. 

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. 


Unknown said...

She is absolutely gorgeous.. bless her heart swingign frantically??? What a rebel roflmbo.. How on earth did that uhmm I struggling for a word here lol... ummmm well shoot... person get playground duty lol? Seriously from the sounds of it he shouldn't have even been in an elementary school.

Aoife.Troxel said...

Maybe by not forcing her to achieve, that's why she did, like a little rebellion, only it was for good...
Mr Magoo sounds very crazy. I've never had a teacher/playground monitor that crazy, but there's always one just a step (or in My Magoo's case, a giant leap) over the line :)

Chubskulit Rose said...

Advance happy birthday to Tori, may she have a healthy life all through out the years. Mr. Magoo sounds funny.

Jennifer Vanderbeek said...

Hon, with a title like that I wasn't sure WHERE this post was going ;-)

Happy Birthday, Tori!

She sound a lot like my youngest brother (the main exception being he was always in trouble, but never for long)--the same can't-keep-me-down spirit and adored by all. And the accident prone thing, too. But, then, little boys bounce!

McKenzie said...

Your Mr. Magoo sounds a little looney to me! I laughed so hard when I read that she was written up for "swinging frantically". Wow!

Happy Birthday Tori!

Noelle said...

Your Tori is beautiful! And as usual, I loved your story. Mr. Magoo sounds like he needs some therapy!

Unknown said...

Oh my! Tori/Victoria is gorgeous! And what fun parents are you? Taking her and all her besties to the beach for the weekend? You are awesome. Can feel your love for her through this post. ANd I'm quite certain she worships you after such an incredible weekend!

Cheryl said...

OH! You mean THAT kind of swinging..

Okay, so, this post made me totally teary. And not just because your daughter is beyond beautiful. It's because I'm projecting. I'm projecting MY daughter at 16. Wondering what she will be like, what I will write about her. Will we spend the day eating cake and shopping? Will she have eight (!) close friends?


Seems unfathomable now.

Thanks for sharing and happy birthday to Tori!

alicia said...

What a beauty you have there, inside and out. And great story. She sounds very much like me as a kid. I was mortified when I had to stand on the line at recess (for reasons I can't say here, but I think I was like 6 and didn't know better) and couldn't stop crying.

alicia said...

What a beauty you have there, inside and out. And great story. She sounds very much like me as a kid. I was mortified when I had to stand on the line at recess (for reasons I can't say here, but I think I was like 6 and didn't know better) and couldn't stop crying.

Hulk said...

HappY Birthday!

My daughter sounds about the same. She had stiches in her forehead at age two because she seriously overestimated her ability to jump from her mother's hope chest to the bed. She missed the mattress, hit the frame.

A year later, she decided to "skate" on the slippery front porch in winter. Result? Six more forehead stiches.

She is still fearless...

Unknown said...

Happy, Happy Birthday to your beautiful daughter!

Mrs. Ohtobe said...

Awwww Happy Birthday and may we all swing frantically!

Cecelia Winesap said...

I was thinking a different type of swinging. :)

Happy Bday to your gorgegous daughter!

Rae said...

First of all: Happy Birthday to Tori! She's a beautiful girl! You should be proud. Loved the story and I laughed out loud at "swinging frantically". Thanks for sharing!

Tiffaney said...

Happy Birthday, Beautiful Tori!

Lisa said...

Tori is beautiful - Happy Birthday to Tori!!

I loved this story. "Swinging frantically!" Clearly Mr. Magoo needed to get a life!

I so relate to the feeling of being a salmon swimming upstream. I hate this time of year, but once we get back into a routine I'm fine. I will just miss the lazy, no schedule days of summer!

And Hollister? Ugh. It stinks from the perfume they spray all over, it feels like I am entering a cave, and every single time I go in there I come out with a migraine. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to your sweet Tori. 16. What an age. Time goes so fast... someday in the not so distant future, I am sure you will long for the days of shopping with her in the dark stores with loud music and being able to wake her up on her birthday with a cake in hand.
But your writing is leaving her an amazing legacy.
There is so much still to look forward to... but clearly so much to reflect back on also. Way to go, Mom.

Enjoy this special day. Both of you.

TesoriTrovati said...

You may be a slacker mom (hey! Me, too!) but this little apple didn't fall far from the tree. She is GORGEOUS! Just like her mom. And I love this little story. My wish for you, Miss Tori, is to continue to swing frantically through life. There is no better and freeing feeling than to feel that wind in your hair and those butterflies in your stomache when you are flirting with perceived disaster that is this beautiful mess we call life.
Swing on, dear girl.
Enjoy the day!

I♥thesecrazykids said...

Happy Birthday beautiful Tori

Alexandra said...

You know what stilled my heart? I can see the ghost of your smile in theirs.

What a neat thing...


Baby Sister said...

Your daughter posts always make me cry.
Tori is beautiful!! And she sounds like an amazing girl.
Happy Birthday to her!!
Thank goodness for no Mr. Magoo. :)

twelvedaysold said...

She sounds like me, in terms of getting in trouble. I once had to spend my recesses writing sentences when someone ELSE thew my shoe on the roof of the school. "I will not misuse school property on the playground."

Except, if she's like me there's also one detention you'll never see that she got in high school because she gave a friend of hers her mail key so the parent's copy never makes it to the parents.

Bossy Betty said...

So glad you wrote this birthday post! Happy, happy birthday to your girl! I loved hearing about her past. She is going to do just fine in life.

When you find that balance you are looking for in life, could you send some my way, please?

Anita @ GoingALittleCoastal said...

Happy Birthday to your beautiful daughter! You guys should watch Sixteen Candles together.

Your Mr Magoo story reminds me of when my son got suspended from the bus for laughing too loudly. Laughing!

Oh, and I'll be waiting for the rest of that subway story :)

Cheeseboy said...

Our August has suddenly become very busy too. I thought it was supposed to be dog days, not headless chicken days.

16, eh? The neighbors better start parking in their driveways.

We have a headbanger too. I am honestly surprised we have not had FDS called on us yet.

randine said...

I'm glad you're OK. I was reading your original post in Google Reader and was alarmed to see you stop in midsentence. I was like Joanne would not do this! Someone call 911, she's either been abducted by the Russain mob and being held for ransom somewhere (and you thought that was a hoax!) or she's having some kind of medical crisis.
And then I tried to link to the actual blog, thinking it was just the Google browser, and it said "This blog does not exist"
and then I thought maybe I had hallucinated the whole thing. A confusing morning for me.
Anyways, your girl is beautiful.
And Mr. Magoo sounds like a straight whack job.

Gigi said...

Happy, happy birthday to sweet Tori!!! She is beautiful, just like her mom. I really feel like I know her, after reading your lovely post.

You are lucky to have each other. :)

Christine Macdonald said...

I love your heart. Beautiful post. Beautiful daughter. Beeautiful YOU.

liz said...

she looks like she's ready for hollywood, joann!

i love the shout out to the South Side, BTW.

Happy sweet 16!

Crazy Brunette said...

Oh fucking God! She is GORGEOUS!!!

Swinging FRANTICALLY???? That little cock sucker! I do EVERYTHING frantically... smoke, blink, hell I SLEEP frantically!

That is funny shit though!

I missed you!

I am searching for some BADLY needed balance in this crazy hell that I call my LIFE... DAMNIT!

Judie said...

Hey! I think that guy belongs to our golf club! He wears those spf 100 clothes and a safari hat with a skirt hanging from the brim. He is the geekiest nerd I have ever seen.

Happy birthday, Tori! You survived the geek of the century!

Anonymous said...

Happiest of birthdays to your stunningly beautiful, brilliant daughter!

Way to go Mom!

Deborah said...

She is lovely! Such a wonderful story.

Music in stores - I'm right there with you girl. Was this story Hollister by any chance? I used to HATE going in there. It was dark and scary!

Grace said...

I wish my girls had only gotten in trouble for "swinging frantically." She's awesome!

By the way, do you know the five Ds of Dodgeball (from the movie)? Dodge, dip, duck, dive, and dodge. My kids have watched that movie so many times I've practically memorized the script.

ProudSister said...

Love, love that girl. I almost didn't send her back to you last week, just wanted to keep her for myself forever. My next goal in life is to convince her to go to college near me, you know "for her sake".

Great post, even better job creating her!

Lula Lola said...

She is so beautiful! The first photo of her just screams of classic Hollywood glamour! So pretty!

I wish I knew her! She sounds amazing!
I hope frantic swinging is the worst thing she's ever in trouble for!

There must be something magical about the name "Tori." I know two young girls who are so wonderful, they are so different from others that are their age. Loved by all, they're smart, beautiful and make good choices. If I had a girl, I think I would name her Tori!

Happy Sweet 16 to your beauty!

granny1947 said...

What a stunning young wonder you are so proud.
Happy birthday Victoria... from darkest Africa!

Ashleigh Burroughs said...

Cake for breakfast! With sparklers! I'm coming back as your daughter in my next life ;)

carma said...

what a sweet sweet girl. I can see why you are proud. Does she ever swing frantically nowadays or did this event scar her for life???

Amethyst Anne said...

Birthday cake with sparklers! I think this is a fabulous way to start a birthday. May your daughter always remember to swing frantically!

MrsBlogAlot said...

She is gorgeous Joann!!!

In trouble for swinging frantically...can you imagine?

I wish that was all I got in trouble for when I was younger!! (-:

Average Girl said...

Yours gets in trouble for swinging frantically, and mine probably will for going too slow...It takes all kinds, and that's what makes this world an interesting place. Such a funny and lovely post~

Dawn in D.C. said...

Happy birthday, Tori!

So glad you haven't fallen off the path, given the rocky start you had. LOL Such a funny story.

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, she's beautiful!
Dude, four square is not safe. I still have nightmares about it. I think I got a bloody nose every time I was forced to play as part of physical education. All I was educated about was that I am terribly uncoordinated and should stay inside unless I am lounging by a pool.

jayayceeblog said...

I raise my large cup of Kahlua and coffee to birthday cake for breakfast and swinging frantically!

JennyMac said...

What a beautiful girl! Happy birthday fab one.

McKenzie said...

Just stopping by to let you know that you won an award on my blog!

Mom vs. the boys said...

That is gorgeous! and so is she! good job mama, you have one fine beauty there! love the story!

Kimberly Walker said...

Great blog! Came across your blog and couldn't stop reading... looking forward to reading more of your stuff. I am now following... feel free to follow back if you like!!!!
All the best,

Anonymous said...

I love you Joann!<3 I love everything on your blog so much! You are incredible and funny!!

Deidra said...

I think I'm trying to become the person your daughter already is. :)

W.C.Camp said...

I'm afraid it will really go fast now. Enjoy your girl while you got her. I think everyone earns the right to SWING like nobody's watching, even if they are! Good Job on raising the bar for the next generation. Maybe she can save us all from OURSELVES!! W.C.C.

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