Tuesday, May 18, 2004

Just like me


DD's preschool has pecan trees. They are humongous, easily 30 feet tall, and drop tons of pecans every spring. For the third year in a row now (I started her there when she was 2), I have had to deal with pecans coming into the house, every day she had school. She is obsessive about them, and it makes me a little bit crazy, because she doesn't even like to eat pecans! And these are quite good! No, she just likes to have them.

It made no sense to me, until something flipped a memory switch and I remember being exactly her age, and obsessively collecting chestnuts from the huge chestnut tree that grew near our neighborhood. We didn't go by it all that often, but whenever we did, I would always bring home handfuls of chestnuts. We never ate them, but I really liked them a lot. I just wanted to have them. They were pretty, they bounced, they were from nature... there was just something about them I loved.

I vividly recall bringing home piles of them, and I have no memory whatsoever of throwing them away. I'm sure my mom, or my older sister, was forever throwing away my stupid chestnuts, because I certainly never came upon them later. Maybe I did throw them out myself, and I just don't remember doing it? It doesn't really matter at all. I just felt very connected to DD through this memory of being little and in love with the world and the things in it.

It makes me so happy that we have flowers (lantana) in the backyard that she can pick to her heart's content. She mixes up little potions ("soup" she calls it, although it's always just pretend and they never, ever eat it!) of bits of lantana and grass and rosemary, bougainvillea bracts and whatever else she finds... she has made some quite beautiful collages out of these unfortunately fragile ingredients. They never last, but there are always more flowers to pick tomorrow.

I remember when I was little how much I loved flowers, and we had
no flowers at all around our house. My mom was not into gardening or landscaping at all. We had a green privet hedge and a little patch of grass, that was it. The hedge was no consolation at all when it bloomed in the spring, because I really detested (still do) the smell of the privet blossoms. They were pretty enough, little white flowers, but -- ewwww. Stinky!

Here, the citrus trees bloom twice a year and the smell of them is quite overpowering. DD's nose is incredible. She will come in and say, "I smell celery," after I have finished chopping some for a salad or something. So she is always asking me, what is that smell, what is that? Half the time I have to tell her I don't know, and I'm not sure she believes me. But she loves the smell of the citrus trees, and I am happy that we have beautiful flowers for her to enjoy and nice smells for her to notice. I didn't have those things, and I longed for them so much.

It is really extraordinary to remember those feelings that are, what, 35 years old? around there, yeah -- so clearly. I have always been a bit separated from DD until now, she has always been alien, other, in little ways. I could never understand her. And now I can see so many ways that she is just like me, she has always been like me and I just refused to see it.

On her last day of school, one of the teachers remarked to me as we were walking out, hand-in-hand, that I must have looked just like her when I was little. I usually balk at the suggestion, and indeed there are subtle differences between us: she has blue eyes, and I think she'll end up with her father's eyebrows instead of mine, and she certainly doesn't have my mop of hair. But overall, yes, she is my mini-me. She is beautiful and always has been, although she is quite thin -- when I was her age I wasn't (bad teeth, bad hair...), I never have been beautiful. But we do look very much alike, our bodies are put together the same way, the structure of our faces...

DD doesn't play with dolls much at all, really. I didn't either, although I do recall wanting "Baby Tender Luv" for Christmas, and getting two of them! I don't know that I ever actually played with them, though. I loved my stuffed animals, just as DD loves hers. The more I look, the more similarities between us I can see. It's really amazing.

Another one? DD can happily spend all day on the computer... oh, Lord, have I created a monster?! For now, it's OK that she plays the games on Noggin.com or another computer game. Later, it may become a source of concern, but for now? It's fine.

For her entire life, I have felt a much stronger emotional connection to her older brother, who physically is just like his father, but emotionally and mentally is very much like me. Even DH will say, "You are just like your mother, always thinking in science fiction terms," which is so true! (Someday I should put together all of his Fire Newts In Space story/pictures, they are quite extraordinary. You wouldn't think that Fire Newts would be a space-going race, but they are to him.) Also, DH totally nailed me one day on the fact that DS1 is my favorite. That's not quite true because I love them all, I just love them in different ways. I honestly don't believe that anyone can be "fair" about love. It just doesn't work that way. We have different relationships with every individual. I do try to be fair with respect to rules and behavior, though, although I'm quite sure that DS2 is more spoiled than the older ones!

At any rate, I have always understood DS1's finicky reactions to food and clothes and whatnot, because they resonated with me. I was just like that when I was younger, I remember those feelings so well: liking pasta, but only certain shapes, because the other shapes just tasted weird... DH does not get that at all, but I do, so when DS1 doesn't want bow ties or shells but will eat penne, I completely understand.

It was something similar that finally opened the doors I had closed off to DD: she was complaining about her socks being uncomfortable. Her feet are so long and narrow, it's really hard to find socks that fit her well. They need to be stretchy so they are not too baggy, but they also need to be long enough. I started out being annoyed with her but then I realized that in the past I have bought dozens of different socks to try before I finally settled on the Keds I like. It sounds stupid, but they are the right amount of stretchiness so they don't twist around on my foot or give me blisters. How could I blame her for wanting comfy socks after the expense I had gone through to find decent socks for myself? She was just like me.

That was the beginning of the revelations, but it wasn't until I made the connections between pecans and chestnuts, which in itself was triggered by the teacher's comment, that I realized how many similarities we have. It sounds shallow but I am finding it much easier to love her -- that's not quite right: much easier to show her how much I love her. To be kind when I speak to her, to nourish those connections that are so new. She has such a kind heart, she deserves kindness, especially from me.

I think about my life and what I have managed to accomplish, and I see her and think, she can do anything. All of the things that I longed for, she has. No one has messed her up, nothing holds her back. She can do anything, I'll make sure she knows that, believes it down to her soul. She's just like me.

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