Thursday, April 11, 2013

"Dancing Irish"

Here is a strange one -

Last night our three oldest children walked on stage at Chandler Hall in front of a couple hundred people and danced.

They danced.  Well, Jonah and Caroline danced.  Cecily kind of bounced up and down with the idea of dance filling her head.

The most notable part of this, for me, is the turning of the corner from parent-and-child, to just child.  Standing alone, being whoever child is when they are not parent-and-child.  They were doing something I don't know how to do.  What must it feel like to a an accountant when their child becomes a cardiac surgeon?  I know their little brains grew inside of me, but today the world grows inside of them and they decide where they will fit in it.  I taught Jonah to read and now Jonah teaches me about the salinity level of a certain part of the ocean and how that affects a particular fish, or that Hatshepsut is the Lady Pharaoh who ruled in the Eighteenth Dynasty of Ancient Egypt.

The thing is, they are snipping the apron strings on me and I'm not quite sure if I keep handing them the scissors, or if I should be, or if homeschooling means they're really more like apron-tie-down-straps and I should be sharpening the machete in preparation for my children's looming adulthood.  The mysteries of parenting only become more mysterious with time.

On another note - Cecily might have been converted to the stage last night.  The audience went crazy for her little wave as the Irish dancers skipped their way off stage.  Later, during intermission, Cecily ran across the stage looking for someone and about two thirds of the way across she stopped in a sudden realization that the wild cheering, clapping and hollering of the entire room was for her.  Heaven opened up a permanent spotlight on a four-year-old that only days before was paralyzed in uncontrollable tears at the prospect of doing her little dance just in rehearsal.  Somehow she overcame her fear the following day and waltzed on stage just as confidently as any mouseketeer in their day.

I filmed at the dress rehearsal so I could get closer and not be bothered with it during the actual performance so you won't get the full sense of the audiences reaction to our local Irish Troop.  But they were well received.  Gloria Bowden, who you will see holding Cecily's hand, is the genius behind it.  And Southern Virginia University is the "genius of small," which fosters a connection with community and students that will bless our family forever.

while I write this Cecily is trying to teach Ewan to Irish Dance.  Her lessons go like this - "See Ewan, skip, two, three, then switch."
Ewan starts, back to the wall saying "skip, three three," then falls down and she chastises him, "No, like this . . ."  While all her moves look remarkably similar to bouncing.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Denomination of Daughters

{on a bench outside Jefferson's Monticello}

Susie is my Mother-in Law.  She calls me "Be-fessica,"  or "The Incomparable Jessica."

I can't think what I might have done, or been, or said to earn the latter.

The former came by way of birthing one Jonah, who for lack of a 'j' sound early in life called me Be-fessica, and himself Fwonah.

Susie says I am a daughter to her as much as any of the five she bore herself.  What can I do with this?  What do I say between the space of good fortune and friendship that is mine and hers.  I love her.

I love you.

Susie thanks my Mother for Susie's ability to love me as she does.  This is why - my Mother loved my Dad's mother as only a Ruth loves a Naomi.  All my years of growing up I saw my Mom wash dishes in my Grandma's kitchen.  I watched her laugh with my grandparent's, and talk, and seek advice, and accept help when help was all that would keep our family from glimpsing the edge.

To love the mother of the man you marry is a good plan.   And Susie is right, it was seeing my Mom's love - determined and constant, reaching out beyond herself which planted in me the expectation that when I walked into the Rasmussen home for the first time, I was coming to join, not to divide.

Matt told me early on that his Mother's only advice to him about who to marry was to make sure he chose an orphan.  I am hardly an orphan.  Oh grief, I am a Leavitt - a passel of kin, a parcel of generations that claim me up tight.  And despite that moment of hesitation at the Social Security Office just weeks after we married, I was able to slide out of the name that had cradled me for 23 of my own years and who knows how may hundreds of the years that came before me.  I tried on Rasmussen, filling out the paper and passing it over to the woman at the desk who seemed desensitized to the transformation taking place in front of her.

I am a woman.  I am a Jessica.  She is a Susie.  We both tucked away the name we brought to courtship and wed ourselves to a husband and a name.  Father - Son - Grandson.  Someday Jonah will  offer the same name to another woman, who, like us,  a daughter in her own clan, will find that there is room and to spare under the shelter of this name.

Funny how we women go about trading a name for a name, an identity for an identity.  One might be tempted to think that the moving about and the scramble of families and generations and alphabetical segregation would leave us feeling isolated.  But I don't.  I feel like the jumble of appellations untangles into one metronymic name that lets us be sisters, that lets us love.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Extra . . . Something

At the beginning of the school year I had intended Cecily to go to a local preschool.  After looking at the options and visiting a school, I decided on St. John's Methodist preschool which is just a few blocks away in Buena Vista.  

Both Jonah and Caroline attended the West High preschool near Rose Park.  This was a good thing for both of them for different reasons.   And knowing that I would shortly be adding Cecily to the daily mix of lessons at home I felt she needed the opportunity to learn how to do something on her own with other people.  

As school approached the apprehension among the children grew.  They all knew Cecily was destined for the newest, most foreign experience yet in our Virginia life.  They all anticipated Cecily's first day of school with varying degrees of excitement and anxiety.  

Huddled together just days before school began, Jonah whispered to Caroline "Cecily is going to preschool in a church."

"Oh Cecily," Caroline exhorted, "you have to be extra good."

"And extra normal," added Jonah.

"And extra Mormon," Carlo concluded.

As it happens, she ended up joining a preschool co-op of all LDS kids and Moms, so she didn't need to worry about being extra Mormon or extra normal.