I am at Panera bread again and I have nothing to say about it.
We arrived a bit early, so we stopped at Old Navy. Daughter is starting to get interested in clothes. And nail polish. And all the other manifestations of girl-things she had previously scorned. I caught her on the Old Navy website looking at back-to-school clothes, and she turned a deep red: okay okay so I sort of care what I look like jeez no big deal. I just smiled and said “My little girl is growing up,” which of course makes a kid roll her eyes and grit her teeth. At least she said: “Well, yeah, would you prefer I shrunk down?”
Then she said “don’t answer that.”
She has previously noted that she doesn’t like sentimentality about the past when it’s about her, because it’s like we’re lamenting the loss of someone she can’t remember and isn’t now. What can you say? Of course you’re that person now.
“But now you can talk to me about things. Isn’t that better?”
Of course it’s better. But different wasn’t worse.
What she’ll never know, unless she reads this some day, is that I have talked to her the same way since she was about 1. I guess most parents do. I’m sure I dumbed down my vocabulary a bit, but when you’re all by yourself with a toddler, a good deal of the things you say are intended for your own amusement, just to keep yourself sane.
If, however, I mention that one of my fondest memories in life is sitting at the kitchen table with a 103 fever because I had the pnu-moany, shivering and sweating, trying to write, and she’s standing there with a Mickey Mouse finger puppet, saying “You be Mickey.” She was Minnie. I was better at being Goofy, but as I’ve said before: all dads must be able to do Goofy. As well as the sound of Exasperated Donald.
Oh, man, the jig is up. What did I say up there? Tonight I hear a peal of outrage ring from her room: “I’m reading your site about the trip and I sound like a total brat.”
Uh oh. It has begun. I ask her what she meant. “You said ‘my day began at 6:30 when my daughter woke me up.’”
“Well, you did.”
“And then later I rolled my eyes.”
“Well, you do.”
“And I hissed? You said I hissed ‘Dad she doesn’t care.’”
I had to think on that for a moment. Context. Ah: Italy. Pompeii. I was walking alongside the tourguide, explaining that my home state of Minnesota was just about as old as unified Italy, and daughter had, indeed, hissed a request to NOT BE THAT GUY who talks about things, presumably because it was embarrassing and would ruin her reputation in the Roman Antiquity Community forever, if not throughout the entire Latin peninsula.
I told her to write a rebuttal and I would append it to the piece. So we’ll see.
Just so we’re all clear: she’s not a brat. On the contrary. She is the most wonderful person in my world. Do I worry? Of course I worry. But she’s grounded, solid, happy, skeptical, sarcastic, enthusiastic, and immensely talented. Driving back today from swimming, listening to the radio, making fun of the songs or applauding the ones we liked, playing along with the DJ contests - I thought again that this was just like last summer, these simple little journeys, the comfort of repetition, the extraordinary joys of the ordinary.
That’s what you remember. That, and all the other things they never recall. You see their shining face as they head off to college, and you see the smiling kid in the backseat bopping to the radio, the rolled eyes in Pompeii, the toddler grin: you be Mickey. You want to do a Spock thing from the end of Star Trek II, put your hand on her head and say remember and transfer it all, but your hand stops in mid-air so it looks like a wave: goodbye.
Have to go upstairs now and remind her to go to bed.
All the goodnights lead up to the one Goodbye.
But not yet. So the Goodnight hug has extra strength. And she rolls her eyes. You’ll see me tomorrow.
Yes, and lucky me for that.
This is a heavy work night, and I'd feel bad about that except there are 15 motels awaiting you in the Florida section. Before that, let me introduce you to a failed meme. I doubt it will catch on, but you never know.
That led me to think he might be some sort of proto-Nazi tot planning world domination. So:
Off you go to the motels!
Here's your link for the Lileks @ Lunch blog.
See you around! Because, you know. Twitter & tumblr and all that.