The sixth grade class at the girls' school always closes out its multicultural night by having the students march in with the flag of their homeland. This year, there are 13 countries represented in their class, from the single member of the Navajo Nation to the trio from Bosnia, the 20-some from Mexico, the smaller groups from Somalia and Guatemala and — I can't even remember all of them. The "Americans" marched in last, my Jen among them, amid raucous applause from the entire group because they're all here, all proud, all American. It's my favorite part of the entire program, a strangely emotional display of solidarity from people who come from vastly different backgrounds. In grade school, they're not arguing about immigration or whose country it is or who's to blame for this or that. They just play together and accept one another. In my grade school, there was one little black girl in a sea of white. My brother and I were also "diverse," because we were a different religion than the majority. It was uncomfortable at times, painful at others. My husband and I picked a diverse neighborhood so our children would grow up with all kind of people and ideas and experiences. So today, as the children marched under their flags, I cried. The beauty of that moment rivaled the most spectacular sunset. The debate about immigration will rage on, fueled in large part by misinformation and the very human tendency to want to blame someone when times are tough. And the truth is, who did or didn't do what is no reflection on these innocent kids. Looking at the multicolored young faces, so full of hope and promise and joy, I had only one thought. I wish you well -- for all our sakes.
There's a "Barbie at 50" ad campaign circulating that resonates with me. It was created for an anti-obesity message by Latinworks, Austin, USA.
Barbie and I are contemporaries, born in 1959 and starting to expand a half-century later. I'm like an optical-illusion statue. Turn me one way, I have jowls, another and my butt looks bigger than my car. If the angle's just right, it doesn't look like I have changed that much.
But amid the list of things that have grown (in some cases, significantly), it's easy to forget a couple that aren't so bad: My self-confidence and my sense of humor.
There are a lot of things that the "old" me can do that would never have occurred to a sleeker, younger version. When I lose a bet with the girls these days, the penalty is apt to be a starkly different color hair. It's kind of fun and neither defines nor explains me. I could do robin's egg blue without blinking, I think. Red and dark, dark brown are particular favorites.
I can laugh at myself, too. And given the perspective of the cancer I had years ago and Beaux's placement on a liver transplant list, I honestly don't sweat the small stuff much.
And at the end of the day, looking back with the perspective of lots of years and a lot of experiences, it's all pretty much small stuff.
This morning, I took Beaux to work at 6 a.m. and came home and crawled back in bed, where Aly found me a couple of hours later. Get up, she said. Weren't we going to the park for breakfast? For the past two weeks, we've repeatedly passed a sign announcing the Lions are cooking breakfast in Riverside Park Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. And repeatedy, I've said, we should go. So I jostled Jeni into getting dressed and we headed out, only to discover we didn't know where Riverside Park is. We called Beaux to find out, but we circled around toward the sign to see if it said, too. And there we discovered that we'd been looking at the right park, but the wrong day. They're cooking breakfast next Saturday. No sweat, I told the girls. McDonalds, here we come. As I was pulling in, my cell phone rang. It was my friend Maggie, who is 102 years old and was next up on our to-do list. "Can you come next week, instead?" she asked. I have workmen coming and going all day and it's so distracting." No problem. When I told the girls, Jen cocked her head to one side and said, "I get it. We are going to do today next week."
Jen casually mentioned that all the girls in her sixth grade class have photos of their graduation dresses on their phones, like screensavers. "It's lame," she opined. About the third time she said something about it, I realized she was trying to tell me something. She's approaching a fashion crisis and in typical NotMommyoftheYear Fashion, I'm not picking up on. Duh. She has an event coming -- and nothing to wear. Now mind you, there's great irony in all of this: I am the anti-fashion queen. I am the bag lady of journalism, completely indifferent to clothing, as long as it's clean and comfortable and semi-presentable. I don't wear sweats to work. But I am wearing a few favorites regularly that are approaching classic status because I've had them so long. And makeup? Takes too long and I frankly need the extra 10 minutes sleep in the morning.
Perhaps because I've never emphasized fashion, my girls have been left to sort of develop their own personal style. And while Jen has inherently good taste, apparently a genetic gift from her dad, she has my love of the casual. Al's a mini-me, clueless and mostly not troubled by the fact. But the thing is, the graduation requires girls to wear a dress -- and who the hell, by the way, thinks kids need a full graduation at every stage of life? Kind of takes away from completing high school, if you ask me. When we were kids, we got our report card and started junior high, sans the pomp. And it didn't ruin any of our lives. Jen would rather wear Levis and long-sleeved shirt. I think she figured I'd back her on it. But I think she'd regret that on the actual day. So I suggested that she, instead, decide to go whole hog and glam it up a bit. We'd do her hair (Good Lord, who is this woman masquerading as her mom?) and shock everyone who's used to super-casual Jen. And as soon as it's over, she can change. Like instantly, at the end of the ceremony. I also agreed she can wear her Convers sneaks, since they make her happy. What the hell? It's her graduation. She decided she might be able to stand that, if it really provided some shock value. But there are rules. The school has one: The dress must be modest and for some reason, the litmus test for that is how wide the straps are. Huh? They have to be two inches which, by the way, is not easy because everything on the racks right now celebrates the sun with skinny little straps. Jen's rules are different. NO color. The dress has to be black-and-white or plain black, below the knee, and killer cute but not too frilly or femmy. Etc. We've now been to 12 stores, her friend Ayla calling every half hour to see if she found one. Not yet. I'm thinking her jeans idea wasn't such a bad one after all.