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Tuesday
Mar252014

Mirror Image

Since the moment my daughter escaped my womb I've had to hear about how much she looks EXACTLY like my husband, his sisters, his aunts, his grandmothers, his million-times removed fourth cousin, you name it.

I always knew this was said with love but that never stopped it from stinging my ego a teeny tiny little bit. Okay. A LOT. After all, my husband didn't just carve our daughter from play-doh in his image. My DNA is mixed in and my side of the family wanted to wrap their tree roots around her as well.

However, the older my daughter grew, the more unmistakable her lineage has become. 

It's as though Bruce's genetics and mine mud-wrestled until he was declared the victor and I was left sitting in a rubber tub scooping goo out of my eyes. Ken strongly resembles her father, she is a spitting image of one of his sisters, resembles the other sister, and heck she probably looks like both of his grandmothers, each of his cousins, and likely their family's favourite next-door neighbours all rolled into the shiny package I call my daughter.

I am older and wiser now, and for the most part, more mature, so I no longer get my knickers in a twist when someone points out how much she looks like her father or one of his family members. There is enough of me in my daughter that I can proudly take ownership of her. She has my figure. My facial expressions. My quirks.

She is my mini-me and for as often as she's told she looks like some member of her paternal family, I look at her and see flashes of me staring back. 

(And yes, I'm aware many readers think she looks just like me. And she does. But mostly she looks like her dad's side of the family tree.)

A few weeks ago I sat at the kitchen table, her grad proofs spread out before me, and emotion clawed at my heart. I recalled staring at her wee face as an infant and wondering just what she'd look like when she grew up while dreaming of the person she'd grow to become. All those years ago it was hard to imagine a time when I would be sitting at a kitchen table trying to choose which of her grad photos to buy.

"Mom? Are you okay?" Ken asked as she looked up from across the kitchen table where she sat doing her homework.

"I'm fine. Just trying to choose a photo from these proofs."

"You look like you were about to cry."

"I am. Have you seen the price of these grad photos? It's enough to bankrupt a family," I half joked, while wiping the corners of my eyes.

"Oh, I thought maybe the pictures were making you cry."

"No! You look beautiful in them!" She shook her head as she disagreed with me. 

"No I don't. I look like a stringy haired, goober. I hate them."

She hates them. Of course she does. I looked back down at them, trying to see what she saw. Apparently I was blinded by maternal love. I wasn't seeing the monster she professed to look like.

"You look lovely. What about this one?" I asked as I pointed to proof number 7.

"That one? NO! I have a stupid look on my face."

"You're smiling."

"It's a STUPID smile." Right. Of course it is. My bad.

"What about number 19. That's your dad's favourite."

She looked at 19 and shook her head emphatically. "No, my hair looks weird."

It didn't.

"I looove number 13. You look stunning."

She peered at the image I was pointing to and snorted, "You mean, I look STUNNED."

Hard to please. Yep. She's totally her mother's child.

"Okay," I sighed, "which photo do you like? We'll get that one. There are 22. One of them must be all right."

Ken shook her head. "I can't choose. I hate them all. All of my friends look a million times better than I look."

"Oh my vain princess. I'd have killed to have grad proofs like these. I can't choose a picture from your grad proofs because you look beautiful in every one. My mom couldn't choose a picture from my proofs because I looked ridiculous in every one."

"I doubt that Mom. You are beautiful."

"I've trained you to say that. Good job." Her indoctrination is almost complete. "But I've got proof. Hang on," I said over my shoulder as I walked to my bedroom.

A few minutes later, I thumped a dusty photo album onto the kitchen table and started flipping pages. My past stared back at me from yellowing photo album pages that were stuck together.

High school friends, crushes, birthdays, pets. Old memories that had been forgotten or fuzzed with time.

And then, my grad proofs.

"Here. Eat your words, child," I chortled as I slid the photo album over to her. 

And this wasn't even the WORST picture.

She didn't stop laughing for the rest of the night. 

Staring at her grad photos next to mine, I've never been more grateful my kid looks just like her daddy. There is only so much room on the wall for grad photos like mine.

***


Ken's official picture. My choice. Wisely, she never argued after seeing mine. Smart girl. Just like her momma.

Thursday
Mar132014

To India And Beyond

"Hello, may I please speak with Ken?" she asked.

"I'm sorry, she's not here at the moment, may I take a message," I replied.

"Is this Ken's mother?" she inquired.

***

13 years ago I watched as my little girl with her crooked blonde pigtails, boarded the little yellow school bus and drove off into the vast unknown of her future. She was fearless and excited and I was the opposite. I remember watching the taillights of the bus and worrying that she was too young for such an adventure and I remember chiding myself for such thoughts as I wiped away the tears that had slipped down my cheeks and turned away to trudge back up the driveway and into the house.

Letting go was hard to do that morning. It was only with time and the arrival of the little yellow school bus bringing her home that I was able to exhale. My baby was home. 

Eventually, the sands of time softened the harsh edges of the fear I held, and we sunk into the trivialities of life. Homework, sports, missing mittens and unmatched socks. It's hard to be scared of the future when you are mired in the present.

***

"Hi! My name is (redacted) and I'm calling about a scholarship your daughter was nominated for."

"Oh! Hello! I'm Tanis! Is there a message I can pass along to Ken?" 

"You're daughter is an amazing young woman. You must be proud of her."

"Yes, yes she is. We are so very proud of her."

***

Parenthood turned out to be exactly nothing what I expected and everything I never dared to dream. These teenaged years have turned out to be the best of all the years, a reward for all the tantrums and diapers I've had to endure over the years. 

As I sat at the kitchen table last night, listening to my teens argue over the merits of matching tuxedos and bowties to grad gowns, that fear I felt 13 years ago came rushing back and tightened it's grip around my heart once more.

My time with my kids is running out. They're standing on the precipice of adulthood, ready to unfurl the wings I've worked so hard to give them and fly out into their futures. 

I'm not sure I know how to let them go. This time, there will be no school bus to bring them back to me. This time, I have to trust they will be able to find their way back to me on their own.

***

"I'm so pleased to inform you that your daughter has been chosen to be a recipient of our scholarship program."

"That's fabulous," I gushed.

"As part of the scholarship, we will be sending your daughter on an internship this summer, before she starts university."

"She's going to be so excited!" 

***

I console myself by remembering my first tastes of adult freedom and my first adult choices. The exhilaration of the unknown. I remember that feeling of missing home and the comfort my parents brought to me. Leaving the nest was just as scary as watching your youngsters take flight. Perhaps scarier. 

So I've done what so many parents have done before me; I've tamped down the bitter taste of my own fears and I've pasted a happy smile on my face as I helped fill in university application forms and scholarship applications. 

With every application sent, my daughter's hope for the future blossoms and my fear of the unknown rises a little further in my throat.

With every acceptance letter that arrives in the mail, I smile wider and swallow harder.

The months have marched on, drawing her future nearer as our time together dwindles. Soon her life will be foreign to me, a series of anecdotes related over texts, stories shared as she washes her laundry at my house before dashing off to chase her dreams once more.

So I smile hard as I watch the days pass on the calendar, grateful for every remaining moment of her childhood I have left, determined to squeeze every drop of joy out of these last few months I have her under my roof before she forges off on her own.

***

"We're pleased to tell you that she'll be spending this summer in India as part of our leadership awards program," the voice on the other end of the phone chirped on.

"India! That is wonderful! She'll be so very excited!" 

"It is a wonderful program and we're so pleased to have Ken involved!"

"An opportunity of a life time!" I smiled.

***

I stood on the deck this morning, watching as the kids loaded Knox onto the school bus and then my daughter hopped into her car and waved goodbye as she followed the bus to school. Her life is too busy now, packed with activities and a job, for her to ride the little yellow bus.

A parade of taillights drove off into the distance, taking my family with them, and as my dog wove his way around my legs I realized it wasn't long before some of those taillights don't come back.

In just a few months, my daughter will be on the other side of the world, in India, forging her own path, only to return to a dorm, to start the long journey of making her own dreams come true. I worry she is too young for such an adventure and I then chide myself for such thoughts.

In another short year, I will see the taillights of my son as he drives away from me and into a future he will create for himself. 

Soon it will just be Knox and I under the roof that we call home. 

Fear gurgled up as the sky bloomed into a beautiful sunrise.

As I swallowed, I realized, I am not scared for their futures. I am scared for mine. All of these years I've held the comfort of the familiar around me like a warm cloak to keep fear at bay and now I find myself standing at another precipice, that warm cloak slipping off my shoulders.

I've grown up while raising littles to grown ups and once again, like all those years ago when I was a teenager myself, my future is unknown, shiny with all the possibilities within. And still, letting go is hard.

***

"You're daughter is an exceptional young lady. This is such an exciting time. Her future is so bright!"

"Yes, yes it is."

***

The same could be said for mine.

May the camels of your future carry you far and always bring you back home to us.

Congratulations Ken, on all your hardwork and dedication over the years. We are so very proud of the person you are and all that you have, and will, accomplish in your future.  Here's to India, a future filled with possibilities and knowing we are out here loving you, no matter where in the world you land.


Monday
Mar102014

Stupid Is As Stupid Looks

In what wouldn't be considered shocking by anyone who knows me or has ever waited for me to update my blog (sorry), I am what I like to call 'selectively lazy.' I often have the best intentions, but I have this annoying habit of putting off today what I can totally do tomorrow. 

In my defense, life is short, there are so many books to read, the laundry is unending and, well, anything that resembles work requires a commitment I'm just not ready to make.

This tends to drive my husband insane. It constantly shocks him what I will and will not do. Shovel out an entire flowerbed and replace all the soil, by hand? No problem. Answer the phone even though it's sitting next to me? No thank you. Clean the house from top to bottom? Of course, I am no slob. Pick up the mail? That would require energy I'd rather use to match sock pairs with, thank you very much.

I like to think I'm charming with my eccentricity but my husband would argue I'm annoying. It's that po-tay-to pah-tah-to syndrome. We're the yin to the other's yang. 

Over the years, my husband and I have managed to find a balance. He picks up where I slack off and I manage what he doesn't want to, or can't. It's a balance and it all tends to even out in the end. Which was why, when he was last home, I was shocked when he told me I had to go and renew my vehicle registration. Myself

He is upsetting the delicate eco-system my systemically lazy-self thrives in!

"What? You didn't do it for me? You always do it for me. I took the kids for their drivers' tests! I sat through 30 collective hours of drivers training! I pump my own gas! WE HAVE A SYSTEM BRUCE!"

"I know! I tried renewing yours when I renewed mine but there were FINES. And your registration expires today so you better get on it."

I tried acting shocked that there were FINES but my daughter helpfully remembered that time when I was caught speeding while taking her shopping and dammit, what good is it raising children when they won't contribute to any sort of plausible deniability you've tried to assert?

"All right, I'll do it myself. But the next child of ours who needs driver's training is your responsibility."

My husband ignored my tantrum and continued sorting through the mountain of mail I've ignored and left accumulating on the counter since well, forever.

"Did you know there are Christmas cards in this pile? I was beginning to fear we had no friends or family who love us. What is wrong with you?" he chuckled as he gleefully ripped into another holiday card three months past its prime.

"Mail annoys me," I huffed. I didn't have time for this. I had a vehicle to register, another broken hearing aid to get fixed and a medical delivery to pick up for Knox. And groceries! Someone has to feed all these people. Food doesn't find it's way into our pantry itself. Who has time to open mail? Send me an email if you require my attention. I'm busy being selectively lazy.

So off I left to run errands while stewing in annoyance that my day of leisure was being interrupted by the tedium of life. 

Hearing aide brought in to be fixed: Check.

Medical delivery picked up at hospital: Check.

Groceries purchased: Check.

Chai tea latte procured: Check check.

As I was leaving the city my husband called. I listed all my accomplishments, proud I had finished all the errands required and could sink back into being selectively lazy once more.

"Did you renew your registration?"

Crap. 

So I turned around and headed to the nearest registries office I could find. Being a responsible adult is hard work.

There was no line up at the registry and I thanked the Universe for small miracles as I walked up to the lady behind the counter and passed her my insurance and registration papers. "I need to renew my registration please." 

"I need to see your driver's license." Right. It had been a while since I've done this. I dug out my license and handed it over. She looked at it and then looked up at me.

"Your license is expired."

"What? No way."

"Yes," she said as she counted off fingers. "Over FIVE months ago."

That moment, right then and there? It's what I refer to as a 'wet your pants' moment. She pulled out a desk calendar and flipped back and counted months and days as I held my breath and prayed to every Deity known to mankind. 

"You're lucky. If you had waited a few more weeks, you'd have to jump through quite a few hoops to get your license back. Did you not get the reminder statement sent to you in AUGUST?"

The stack of unopened mail sitting on my counter flashed before my eyes.

I mumbled something and readjusted my toque and smiled winningly at her. I would admit to nothing.

"We will have to renew your license as well as your registration. And it appears there are fines which will need to be paid too."

"Yes, yes, of course." Shame and embarrassment coursed through me and I could feel nervous sweat trickle down my body. 

(Side note: Those fines? Turns out they were all my HUSBAND'S. How do I know? Because they were all photo radar fines from places he's worked and I've never been too. While driving a car also registered in my name. Booyah. Score one for this lawbreaker.)

"You'll have to follow me. We need to update your photo."

Wait, what?

"Um, can I keep my hat on?" I asked hopefully, knowing that I had two-day-old hat-hair hiding under my toque. 

"I'm sorry, no. But we do have a mirror you can use if you like." Great. So I can see the rat's nest I'm about to have immortalized. Helpful.

I took my toque off and tried fluffing my hair but I could see the lady try and stifle a chuckle. Surely this was punishment for letting my license lapse so long.

"You'll also need to remove your glasses."

"But the glasses are my best feature! I'm not wearing any makeup."

"Well you can smile, but you aren't allowed to show any teeth."

Double helpful.

So I swallowed hard, took off my glasses, refluffed my hair and hoped for the best.

Click.

The lady looked at my photo, and for the first moment in our encounter, offered me some sympathy. "We can retake the photo if you like."

I walked over and looked at the computer monitor. A greasy ugly triple chinned slightly drunk looking terrorist looked back at me. This photo makes my passport photo look like a super model.

Artistic rendering of what actual photo looks like. Only picture it WORSE.

I looked at her, and then remembered I'd been driving without a license, for FIVE months, with CHILDREN in my vehicle, and I stuffed my hat back on and put on my glasses.

"No, this will be fine. It will be my own personal hair shirt every time I look at it."

I got home, still slightly damp from sweating bullets and retold my story as I put away groceries. "At least I'm good for another four and half years before I need another license!" There is a bright side to everything, no?

My husband nodded as he passed me more groceries and then asked, "But did you remember to pick up the mail?"

Crap.