She started playing the piano in September and had been practicing for her June recital for months. She could play the music in her sleep. As I stood behind her curling her hair on the big day, I watched as her tiny fingers tapped in time on the table. She hummed the tunes to herself quietly as she played the imaginary keys, just like I used to do.
She is only six and I was so nervous for her. What if she was scared when she got up there? What if she froze with all those eyes on her? How could I help her from my place in a sea people? I remember well that butterfly feeling, that anxious anticipation whenever I performed on stage. Was she feeling it? I sure was.
“Are you nervous?” I asked her.
“No.” she answered matter of fact without skipping a beat.
When it was time to leave she was jumping up and down, a ball of excitement. She was ready.
Before the show started I found myself whispering words of encouragement, desperate to show my support. “You’re going to be great, just do your best, keep going if you make a mistake, and enjoy yourself up there.”
I’m not even sure if she heard me; she exuded confidence and strolled right past me, head high as if to say, “I so got this, Mom.”
And she did. She was wonderful. I’m not sure if I breathed the entire endless minute that she was on stage. She was so happy, so proud of herself. I sat back and wondered in awe of my little girl, so self assured, so knowing, so comfortable in her own skin. I’ve seen glimpses of it before, but in that moment I sat blinking at the undeniable proof that she is so much braver than I ever was, and my fears are not hers; never have been.
The force is strong with this one, and in that knowledge I take great comfort.
You would think in the Big Apple that you might have yourself a celebrity sighting. Well, I guess I did but first it happened right in Providence. My coworker and I were standing outside the Providence train station, waiting to head off for a week of training, when Martin Sheen stepped out of a car. My friend and I looked at each other slightly bug-eyed; small whispers passed between us as we marveled at our moment in the presence of greatness. I would love to say that I said something profound to the man. I would love say that while my friend blurted out “Mr. Sheen, love your work”, that I said something mildly close to equally so, or made some sort of joke about Big Block of Cheese Day, or even was totally obnoxious and said something like, Yo POTUS! How you doin, Man? But I pretty much just smiled at him widely like a mute school girl. Of course, when I texted some friends moments later, I totally toted that off as me say hello.
Oh, but there are such things as second chances! For after we got off the train at Penn Station and headed up the escalator, I turned to say something to my friend about the insanely dressed and ridiculously jubilant Knicks fans that had just emerged from Madison Square Garden, when lo and behold, Mr. Sheen was standing right behind me. This time I only giggled like a school girl before stammering out, “Oh, hello again!” He smiled and said hello, and what followed as I continued to stare at him was complete and utter awkward silence. I suck.
So that is what I will probably use as my takeaway when I blather on about my trip to New York, but truly what I will remember most are the two most beautiful words that I have heard in a very long time: Quiet Car.
“Would you like to sit in the Quiet Car?” the ticket checking dude asked me as I boarded the train. Uh, sure. I had no idea at the time that what I should have said was HELL TO THE YEAH, TICKET MAN!!!
What followed was three hours of glorious silence. Perhaps a few clicking of laptop keys, a few muted coughs from a scratchy throat, a whisper here or there of someone announcing their departure to the beverage cart; that was all that could be heard. No talking. No crying. No I want to play angry birds. No I’m hungry. No I have to potty. No are we there yet. Just silence.
Oh, except for the time when some idiot behind us was prattling on about his life and the ticket checking dude promptly bitched him out even louder: THIS IS A QUIET CAR! THERE IS NO TALKING!!!
Bitch on, ticket checking dude. Bitch on.
We sat and read, we watched the east coast scenery passing by at 150 miles per hour, and we closed our eyes and drifted into a waking sleep. It was the kind of sleep where you are somewhere else, but still quite aware of all that is around you. And all that was around me was the sweet sound of silence.
This morning I was putting away some dishes in the dishwasher that I had neglected last night. As I was doing so, the hugest bellied spider that I have ever seen in this house came scurrying across the counter at me.
It was coming. Right. For me. Naturally I screamed bloody murder and would have jumped a mile if my back hadn’t slammed into my kitchen island right behind me.
So I stood there for a good moment dazed, grasping my injury and willing my breathing back to normal before I noticed the terrible offender had stopped moving. Surely I must have startled it with my effective hyena-banshee combo screech. In fact, I bet it was more afraid of me than I was of it. That is what I say to myself about small creatures and insects of which I am inexplicably terrified.
Except cockroaches. I saw a few cockroaches back in my days when I lived in NY and let me tell you, hot damn if those things don’t have it ingrained in their genetic code to bide their time for the day when they can pick us off one by one. While it’s been many a year since our last encounter, I am well versed in how to take those bastards on.
Anyway, having collected myself I tried to muster enough courage to get a closer look at the offender so that I could decide my next move. I would need to judge if I would have enough guts to dispose of it (if you think I’m one of those people who would trap it in a cup and set it free to the outside world think again), or if I was going to go with my usual tactic of hiding in another room until it went away on its own. I was fairly certain my dishwasher would not be turning on anytime soon.
Holding my breath, legs poised to bolt at the mere hint of movement from the counter, I leaned in for the examination. Only then did I learn the true identity of my nemesis.
"I am plotting my next attack, RIGHT NOW."
Not a spider; just a dried up baked bean from last night’s dinner that probably fell off a plate that I had lifted and rolled across the counter.
I am open to the possibility that I might need therapy.
I was driving to pick up my daughter from school yesterday, when on route I passed over 20 high school-aged kids standing on the side of the road. They were huddled in small groups; many were hugging, bunches of flowers were piled at their feet. It was an unmistakable indicator that something terrible had happened to someone much too young.
I easily located the news article when I got home, and found that it was a local teen from a neighboring town. She had been out with a friend driving at 3:20 in the morning on Saturday night, only three months after she had obtained her license. The police suspect she was speeding and lost control of the car; her friend was ejected from the rollover but survived, she was trapped in the car and pronounced dead at the scene. She was only 16 years old, may she rest in peace.
You can question for hours what she was doing there and who is to blame. There is a curfew for drivers under 18, and a law against having other teens in the car without adult supervision for new drivers. Not to mention that it was three in the morning! What was she doing going for a sandwich at three in the morning? Did anyone even know she and her friend were leaving the house? It is so easy to stand aside and judge; so easy to tell yourself that your kid would never do such a thing and suffer a similar fate.
But I remember when I was 16, and while I was actually a rather compliant kid there are definitely a few things my parents didn’t know about that I most certainly should not have been doing. I knew a bunch of very ‘good’ families whose kids were extremely fortunate that luck was on their side for much of their adolescent shenanigans. My questionable behavior didn’t come until my early 20’s when I really should have known better. I know that I tempted fate more times than I would like to admit, and I have no excuse for it. That’s the sort of thing that terrifies me when I think of my own children.
That is why all that I wanted to do when I got her home was hold my six year old daughter, and tell her all the things that I know she does not need to hear yet.
Things like, do not speed. It is better to be late than dead. It is better to be tardy or get in trouble for being somewhere you’re not supposed to be, than to kill or maim someone else. Besides, if you get pulled over for speeding you’re going to be even later than you were to start with, and your father and I are not paying your tickets or car insurance increases. And I don’t care if it doesn’t look cool; keep your hands on the wheel at 10:00 and 2:00, and not on your cell phone.
Oh, and do not do your makeup in the rearview mirror while driving. That story about me not noticing the police officer trying to pull me over for a half mile because I was too busy putting on my eyeliner is not funny. Not even when I was pounding on the dashboard because I thought the low siren was coming from a glitch in my tape deck.
What is a tape deck? Go to your room.
But before you do, promise to never, ever, drink and drive. Never, ever, get in a car with a driver who has had a drink. Call me and I will come get you. I promise not to yell at you in front of your friends and will wait until the next morning. Call me. Call your father. If you must, call a cab. Just get home to us safely.
If you are going to disobey curfew, and you will have a curfew, remember that nothing good happens after 2 a.m. You shouldn’t be out there anyway. You should have been in bed hours ago. Just go home.
For good measure, and we might as well go all out, if you’re going to do ‘the deed’ make sure he wears a condom. Tell him to bag or sag it. Trust me when I say it could be the biggest two minute mistake of your life. Don’t believe me? As soon as you get yourself a boyfriend, on your next grounding I will make you watch hours upon hours of A Baby Story followed by a marathon of Nanny 911.
Deep breaths and a silent plea to the powers that be.
I don’t know how, and the prospect scares the hell out of me, but when the time comes we will get you through the stage of adolescence well educated, un-impregnated, drug free, STD clear, and most importantly, alive and well. I’ll do my part. Just please, promise me you’ll do yours.