Thursday, August 21, 2008
Revelation in the food court
I'm a messy person. In my family, I was always the one everyone shook their heads about; that Elizabeth, so much emotion, so many interests, and going in so many different directions.... Tsk, tsk. Did you know that she dropped out of college? Did you meet that horrible poet she's living with? When i visited her, she took me to a party full of gay men and one of them hit on me!
My oldest brother knew, from the age of two, that he wanted to be a scientist. And he is. My middle brother was the kind of sunny fellow who could be successful and happy where ever he landed. And he is, as a highly paid, much sought-after wine maker. And then there's me. I once asked a fortune teller what I would be when I grew up and she searched and searched and found.... no answer. Even though I don't believe in such things, it was a little unsettling because if she'd been a charlatan, she would have just made something up. Instead, she looked very abashed and said, "I don't see anything clearly." It always stuck with me, somehow.
Anyway, this afternoon I took three of my daughters out for a mother/daughter end-of-the-summer shopping date at the mall. The husband (very sensibly) hates the mall, which gives these trips a giddy feeling of just-us-girls closeness and naughtiness. We wandered the cavernous fluorescent halls, window shopped, actually shopped, and finally, in that greatest indulgence of all, ate dinner at the food court. (Oh great bounty of unhealthy food! Oh thrilling lack of responsible parent urging good nutrition!) In short, we had a relaxed and unusually pleasant and cohesive time. Which led to an unusual amount of conversation. So at one point during the meal, my youngest turned to me and asked, "Mommy, if you could be anything in the world, what would you be?" Without thinking, I said, "An artist and novelist." Her eyes widened. Thunderstruck, she whispered, "Mommy, that's what you ARE!" I pondered that for a moment, surprised. It seemed she was right. I hadn't said "published novelist," (though I think that's what I meant). I'd just said "novelist." And I've written a novel. And I make art, and I even sell it.
I was quite taken aback.
Then, to compound the strange feeling that if I looked behind me I might see - instead of the branches and brambles I'm used to - a path that I, myself, had bushwhacked, my youngest said, "That's what I want to be! An artist and a writer!" Now, not only was I a person who was doing what I wanted to do, I was also a role model. Let's just say that I'm much more used to being a cautionary kind of example. Stunned, I turned to my older girls and asked, "What would you want to be, if you could be anything?" "An artist," said one. "Me too," said the other, matter-of-factly.
The conversation wandered away in a different direction. I ate bemusedly. After all these years of stumbling through the seemingly pathless wood of who I am and what I want to be, it seemed I might have to reevaluate who I think I am and how I got here. Very odd.
The only way to process all of this, of course, was to shop some more. So we did. The youngest got a really cute pair of Vans with stars all over them, and the twins each got two of the current de-rigeur tee-shirts (which look, to me, exactly like the old de-rigeur tee-shirts, but what do I know?). And on sale of course. Because, in the midst of change, there are certain immutable truths we can cling to. One of which is that I am, as I always have been, a truly gifted shopper. I still don't know what I think about the bigger question of who and what I am. But I do know that my daughters are going to look absolutely adorable when they go back to school.