21 AugDancing in the Wind
My third daughter, the seventh of eight children, is thirteen years old. She is on the cusp of womanhood. I watch her with wonder as she wends her way through life. She brings me great delight even though, of my three daughters—the black belt, the drama queen, and the imp—she is the imp.
I remember the moment she first defied me. By defy I don’t mean disobey. All my children have disobeyed on various occasions in their lives. But on one occasion, when I asked this daughter to do something (I can’t remember what), I saw her think about it, then gear up to defy me to make her do it. She was only three, but there it was, defiance looking me in the face out of those big, brown eyes. This streak of defiance has run unbroken through her into her thirteenth year and yet, miraculously, our relationship remains delightfully intact.
This daughter is intelligent. She reads voraciously and honors me by discussing the books she reads with me. I do not tell her which books to read, but notice that her reading list contains very little of what is currently popular and is instead filled with literary fiction. She finished Fahrenheit 454 and is now reading Emma. Never short on opinions she tells me of the various characters and why she does or does not like them.
This daughter does not run with a group of friends, although she has friends she enjoys. It appears to me that she is too independent to be a part of group. She can’t give up that fierce part of herself, even temporarily, that is needed to fit in with gaggles of girls. And yet she likes people. She can tell me the things that concern her about other girls she knows, and then turn around and tell me what she likes about them. I like how observant she is about the behavior around her and the fact that she is willing to wonder and ponder. I like how, with the friends she does have, she celebrates their eccentricities and uniqueness. She’s able to see behaviors that could be frustrating and limiting as the kinds of idiosyncrasies she sees in characters in books that makes them fun and intriguing.
I see this daughter struggle with her mother as new womanhood meets experienced womanhood. I’ve seen her treat a brother with less than noble behavior that has left him in tears. When it backfires, and she is left in tears, then she will ask, “Why?” I can see why, but it’s something I can’t tell her. Then there are times I run afoul of what she wants. This leads to a wrestle with her defiance. At these times I get her famous “NO!” and the glare. In a lighter moment the other day she tried to teach me the glare. I failed.
This daughter dances. She is on a competition jazz team, but her passion is ballet. She is very slender and has long legs. She loves to be on her toes with her arms gracefully raised. I think on her toes her head reaches the clouds of her dreams.
The other day I came into the house from my office. Nobody appeared to be home. I walked through silent rooms to the front door and stepped out onto the porch. It was hot summer afternoon with gusty winds. Dark clouds overhead suggested a coming thunderstorm. I spotted movement among the trees at the side of the house. It was her. The wind was whipping her dress around her legs as she spun and danced to the glory of the coming storm. She spotted me, did one more pirouette, and then ran across the lawn and up the steps. She smiled at me as she went by and into the house. In my mind she was still over in the trees dancing with the freedom of a girl living in that narrow space between childhood and womanhood.