Monday’s Child

Easter Sunday in southern California was beautiful that year.  As large as I was, I wanted to be up and active, to meet people and spread the joy around.  Jim and our two young children were not feeling well, though, so I went to church by myself.  I put on my brightest maternity dress and went eagerly.   I don’t remember if I made an Easter dinner or did any special activity with the kids.  I started feeling some cramping that evening.  I took a late bath to relax, then lay down to sleep.  Suddenly, my water broke.  Jim got the kids up and took them to a friend’s house, then he came back to collect me.   When we pulled into the parking lot at the hospital,  I could barely walk.  I looked at my watch.  It was midnight.  No longer Easter.  Seventeen minutes later, before any of the staff could complete paperwork and processing, Rebecca Louise was born. 

“Monday’s child is fair of face.”  It became evident to me by the time Becca was able to crawl that she was exceptionally beautiful.  She had large blue eyes fringed with fantastically long lashes, like her father.  She had the most perfect little nose and rosebud lips.  Her face was open, balanced, symmetrical, delicate.  I became so proud of my live doll and enjoyed dressing her up and showing her off.  She, however, had no desire to sit on a shelf and be admired. She wanted to move!  She made noise!  She definitely had a mind of her own.  She challenged my idea of “perfect” and began educating me in parenting at an early age…and continued that education more vigorously in her teenaged years.  Here is a picture of her as a baby, out of focus a bit, scanned on a dusty screen.  It wasn’t until I cropped it and enlarged it that I noticed she has a cut on her lip.  Typical.  She climbed on everything.  When she was a toddler, she fell in a parking lot and shattered her front tooth.  It had to be extracted.  Until she was 6, she sported a gap-toothed smile in the middle of that perfect face.  The day it happened, I cried for hours.  I would have given anything to reverse that split-second event and restore her to completion.  Not for her sake, mind you.  She really wasn’t badly hurt.  For mine.  She was already teaching me that my attachment to perfection could create suffering.

Becca’s beauty went deeper as she grew.  She became a graceful gymnast, then a dancer.  Her remarkable intelligence was evident, but seemed to be tempered by a soft heart for people.  She became quite popular, admired by her peers for obvious reasons.  There’s nothing more daunting to a comfortably nerdy mother than having a popular, attractive daughter! Again, she challenged me and made it necessary for me to educate myself in social awareness.

High school was a minefield.  “Perfection” was blown up completely.  The bits of Becca that came floating back down became unrecognizable to me because I was still looking for an image, not for a person, a person who had a million deep feelings and only a few words safe enough to utter about them.  My best efforts at communication boiled down to the times I simply held her while she cried.  I won’t even mention my worst efforts.  

(photo credit: unknown)

Finally, she graduated and moved down state to live near her brother and study massage therapy.  That’s where she was when her father died.  She was 18.

(photo credit: unknown)

It was a new minefield, but this time, we were both better at dealing with fallout.  She moved back home, and we both worked hard at rebuilding, not “perfection”, but life.   She is a certified massage therapist now.  She creates original jewelry, grows vegetables and “mothers” a dog and cat with that same combination of beauty, grace and energy that she showed as a toddler.  Her heart is large, tender and tough all at the same time.  She is so much more than a pretty face!

(photo credit: Steve)

So, Happy 23rd Birthday, Rebecca!  I am forever proud of you and grateful for all that you’ve taught me.  Have a great night celebrating with Joe.  I’ll see you next week at the Museum of Science and Industry – can’t wait!!

Process, Procedure, Product, and Practice OR Fail Before You Bail

I’m in the midst of a baking day.  Steve’s Aunt asked me to bake two different kinds of cookies to mail to her nephew out of state.  I was happy to participate in producing a care package.  I like caring, even if I don’t know the person.  The first recipe was written out on an index card with rather sketchy instructions.  For instance, nowhere did it suggest how long to cook them!  These are rolled and filled cookies.  I’ve never attempted anything like that before in my life, nor have I witnessed anyone else’s attempt, nor had I seen a representation of the final product.   But for some reason, I decided to plow ahead and do my best using my intuition.  Only after they were out of the oven did I look around online for images.  I wasn’t too far off, I guess, but I know I’d make some changes next time.   “But what have you learned, Dorothy?”

Edible, I suppose

I’ve learned that this kind of thing teaches me a lot about myself.  There was one point in the procedure when my brain did actually shoot off an almost audible “F*** this!” and I felt like quitting.   I have a perfectionist streak in me that easily loses patience.  I suppose that things should go smoothly if I’m doing them right.  When things stop going smoothly, I’m in danger of failing, and this is where the perfectionist wants to bail.  I often go to this conclusion even before I’ve begun a job.  I see this tendency dangling from various branches  in my family tree.  But I figure that if I continue to live this way, I am going to eliminate a lot of experiences prematurely and end up not doing much with the time I have left.   So I might as well just roll up my sleeves and dive in.

I think we live in a culture of “professionalism” and “experts” that contributes to this kind of self-elimination.  How often are we told that we can’t do something because we’re not qualified, we don’t have the skills, we don’t have the right background, or we don’t have the resources and we simply give up on the idea?  Only a charlatan would continue to try to do something he hasn’t been trained for!  But how do you get experience?  By trying something you’ve never done!  We get caught in the Catch-22 all the time, beginning as children, probably now more than ever.  If you haven’t had the 2-yr-old class on foreign languages, you’re not going to get into the right pre-school, and if you don’t get into the right pre-school…(usw)…you won’t get into Harvard!  Gone are the days when a self-taught person could go from a log cabin to the White House.   Now we think we’re not qualified to make improvements in our lives, in our communities, in our government, in our international relations, and we can’t solve global problems.   Well, maybe we actually can but we’ve eliminated the possibility prematurely because the feeling that things aren’t going smoothly is tempting us to bail before we fail.   If you’re going to bail, why not fail first so that you have an experience to learn from?  Or why not fail frequently and refuse to bail?

My kids are in their 20s now.  I hope they have the courage to fail many times.  I hope they don’t bail before they try something that interests them.  I hope I still have some of that left in my future as well.