Sunday, April 15, 2007

reva's daughter

The line, though well-rehearsed, never felt quite natural to me, no matter how many times I recited it over the course of the past week. Perhaps because it is a line I’ve not used much in recent years, perhaps because other lines have taken its place with the passage of time—for whatever the reason, though it always rolled easily off my tongue, it always sounded unfamiliar to my ear, as if I were introducing myself by another person’s name or speaking about myself in past tense. “Hi, I’m Lorie,” I would begin, smiling, my hand outstretched. “I’m Reva’s daughter.”

The response became downright comical after a while. “I knew you was Reva’s daughter,” each relative would reply, smiling back at me. “You look just like her.” “Yeah, I get that a lot,” I would chuckle in return. And I do—which is the funny part. Were we talking about my aunt and her daughter, this would not be nearly as amusing, because my cousin is the spitting image of her mother. But my mother and I—well, suffice it to say that even though she has gotten stopped more than once at the grocery store or the mall with, “You must be Lorie Kaufman’s mom—you look just like her,” we don’t really think we look much alike at all. But I played out my role, smiling, and nodding, all the while wondering what they saw that I did not.

And so it was that I found myself in this odd, bemused place—adult child of my mother, half in the present, half in the past—contemplating what it means to be Reva’s daughter, Jennie’s granddaughter, my husband’s wife, my daughter’s mother. Contemplating what it means to be so linked with another that this link becomes part of my identity. Contemplating what it means to bear the image or imprint of another. I’m not sure I’ve come to any conclusions, save this one:

As much as society tries to convince me that I am an “Army of One,” I cannot escape the fact that my smile is my mother’s, my eyes are my father’s, my outgoing nature is my granddad’s, and my I’m-gettin’-tired Kentucky drawl is my gram’s. The people I come from, the people I’ve united with, and the little people I’ve produced all contribute to the person I was, the person I am, and the person I am to become.

Though the only place I’m now known as Reva’s daughter is in the company of family, I do not cease to be that person once I return home, any more than I cease to be my daughter’s mother when I go to work or my husband’s wife when I leave for a weekend with the girls. And while we may not think we look much alike, I bear my mother’s image nonetheless, just as I do that of my father, and his mother, and so on. Mom’s interest in genealogy is not lost on me—we do not stand alone in a single point in time. I am not separate. I am a part of something beyond myself. I am a Rees. I am a Kaufman. I am an Endicott. I am a Hottle. I am a Baisden.

I am Reva’s daughter.

Friday, April 06, 2007

here she comes...

In memory of my Grandmother
Jennie Baisden Endicott
(The chapel at Community Hospice, Ashland, KY)

I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean. She is an object of beauty and strength. I stand and watch her until at length she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!"

"Gone where?"

Gone from my sight. That is all. She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and she is just as able to bear her load of living freight to their destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her. And just at the moment when someone at my side says: "There, she is gone!" there are other eyes watching her coming, and other voices ready to take up the glad shout: "Here she comes!"

And that is dying.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

I have to admit, I was apprehensive. Six hours of partying with four eight-year-olds was ambitious, at best. Completely insane, at worst. Introducing my agenda to the mix? I wasn't sure what to expect.

Having done childcare for several years before getting a "real job" (meaning one in which I really worked, rather than played out side all day) and eventually going back to school, I knew enough to keep the agenda flexible and make sure I had several back-ups. Six hours is a long time to keep bored children entertained (meaning preventing them from tearing up the house). Should the main event not go over well, I had several back ups to turn to in a pinch before heading to dinner.

Truth be told, the real anxiety was over the main event, not the down time. I had suggested to my daughter that we could do a "spa party" and she was initially very enthusiastic about the idea. Facials, cucumbers, foot massages, manicures, make-overs--the works--and then dinner out to show it off. As the time got closer, however, I heard less and less about it. And as I began to really take a look at these young ladies at school and at church, I began to worry that they may not sustain interest either.

Between attending a church that describes itself as "casual" and a school that mandates uniforms, my daughter and her friends don't have much reason or occassion to really dress up. As a result, my daughter has largely grown, how shall I put it, well, CASUAL. The days of playing dress up have become fewer and farther between, and getting her to wear a skirt to church (as opposed to shorts--in MARCH) has become a hill I have decided I am not willing to die on. Factor in the dirt smudges on her cheeks and the stringy, I've-been-playing-hard hair, and the picture is not one of girliness.

So, would these girls get into a girlie party? Would their interest be sustained through soaking feet and painting nails and making jewelry and curling hair? Would there be an "after" picture with which to compare the "before?" And what would I do with them FOR SIX HOURS if there wasn't?

As usual, I fretted in vain. From the moment we slipped on the headbands, the girls were enthralled. Somewhere within each of these girls their innate desire to feel beautiful kicked in and they were completely willing to be pampered from beginning to end--and thrilled with the results. Goop on their faces, slime on their feet, and sticky stuff in their hair aside...

There are many things I pray for my daughter. While not among the most imperative, the hope that she looks in the mirror each day and smiles at what she sees is one that I will continue to lift up on her behalf. Is feeling pretty the most important thing in her world? No. Not by a long shot. But the gift of feeling good about who she is, BOTH inside and out, is one that will serve her well, and I will go to great lengths in my attempt to give it to her.

Even pampering four eight-year-old girls.


Here's how they turned out: