It’s about time for school to start again, and that means back-to-school shopping. I absolutely LOVE school supply shopping. The smell of paper, erasers, and crayons gives me goosebumps. Clothes shopping, on the other hand, well, let’s just say I’m not a fan. The majority of Story’s clothes come from yard sales and thrift stores. Nearly everything, minus her undergarments, is secondhand. It just made no sense to spend so much money on new clothes that would either be outgrown or destroyed within a couple months’ time. My mom and Ali were rather scandalized when I didn’t take Story clothes shopping prior to the start of school last year – her kindergarten year; yard sales kept us stocked, so I didn’t see the problem. Ali shook her head and took Story herself.
This year, I didn’t hesitate to participate in the back-to-school clothes shopping ritual. I didn’t only participate; I controlled that mall! I surprised even myself. Such a change in beliefs is not common for me — I rather like showing off my stubbornness, especially to Ali or my mom — so I became suspicious. Why did I suddenly care that Story have brand-new clothes? Not even just brand-new clothes, but stylish ones, the ones I saw other little girls her age wearing. I censored her choices, and she very barely convinced me to buy her trademark knee-high socks with outrageously loud colors and designs.
As I sit here writing this, Story and Riley are best friends, eating noodles in the common room and watching a show on Netflix, both sitting on the left side of the couch, knees overlapping. Maddie is lying down, and Ali is reading to her. It’s a pretty nice scene from this small table in the kitchenette. Peaceful.
I love my daughter. I really do. With all my heart and soul. But sometimes . . . sometimes I just want to leave her by the side of the road so my mom will pick her up and take her home like any other stray. We were at a restaurant, eating a fabulous meal, filling our bellies in preparation for a fabulous fireworks show. I looked over, and my precious six-year-old was twirling a linguine noodle in the air. Marinara sauce covered her face and shirt. She was eating with her fingers and mouth open, napkin discarded and unused on the table, and her chair was so far away from the table I was surprised she could reach her food at all.
When did this happen? Story used to have good manners. Not superb, I’ll admit (she still uses the back of her hand more often than her napkin), but she certainly didn’t cause restaurant patrons to stare and tablemates to lose their appetites. In that glance, I saw a child I didn’t recognize, a feral changeling.
When Story was born, my mom and grandma came up to help me. I knew how lucky I was to have four generations in one house, full of love and laughter and exhaustion. The bonds among the women in my family have always been rock strong, and I hoped that Story would feel the same. But I worried.
This month’s dinner also happened to be my birthday dinner, so I made one of my favorite dishes: moussaka. I’d considered making it several times before, mostly after devouring the dish in a local restaurant, but never attempted it. It seemed complicated, and I’m not that secure in my cooking skills. Best to leave such things to the professionals. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted it. So, I tried my hand. (more…)