A Random Image

Jett Superior laid this on you on || February 17, 2003 || 1:11 pm

It started in the summer, to the best of my perception.

There we were, ambling along the dusty footpaths between the produce stalls, seeking the perfect flat of strawberries and letting the sun cook our faces, shoulders, turn the fine hairs on our arms white above the peachy-bronze skin they erupted from.

Three generations, each of them separated neatly in stairstep fashion by twenty-two years apiece: Here is nine, here is thirty-one, here is fifty-three, all carrying thick hanks of honey hair, blue eyes, strong jaw, curve of hip and long legs.

Then there was the boy, dark-haired, handsome manface in waiting, smooth skin as yet untouched by blemish or line or stubble or the care of postpubescent male ego. Sitting some fifteen yards away, he was loosely gracing a stool behind a canopied (yet somehow strangely weather-bleached) table laden with heavy-ripe tomatoes.

I noticed him only briefly before he caught her in his gaze, never noticing me, and locked on, somehow mesmerized. She was more than oblivious and never even realized he watched her, overtaken by her ambling stride and easy grace, one golden lock escaped from low, perfect-loose pigtails.

But I noticed, and it was just as my mother had recounted to me some five years back: They stop and stare and the one bearing the weight of the stare is unaware of its heft. She said it happened constantly with me and it stopped her heart for the briefest of seconds each and every time.

It was touching and terrifying all at once, for her back then and then for me in that instant. She didn’t lie about the heart thing, but then she’s never been one for exaggeration.

Seven weeks later we were driving down the road, nine and I. I was in a sundress and sandals, she was wearing a t-shirt with a monkey in an astronaut suit and a cute brown miniskirt. Not mini-mini by any means, because her stepdad has watched the hemlines religiously since nine turned seven or so.

“You’re not wearing that outside.”

“But momma said….”

“Where shortslengths are concerned, what momma said is veto-able. Please go change.”

He would have her in ankle-length burlap sacks girded with thick chain were it up to him. Her father likes this about him, because it is the one train of thought they seemed to have booked passage on together; they are both males and (as smart as I may think myself to be) privy to information I don’t have due to my lack of that pesky, anomalic Y chromosome.

Riding in the car, yes…and we are sunglassed, enjoying the day and the absence of all our boys, chatting away. At the stoplight, we are lined up with a pickup truck containing a man that would have to be no less than seven years my senior, maybe more. Mid-sentence, I look up, your run-of-the-mill traffic glance, to find the man in the truck keenly observing my young nine’s legs. Looking at her appraisingly in that way and I am immediately drowned in emotion. There is disbelief and indignant and outrage and confusion and revulsion. I want to pull the emergency brake, set the hazards, exit my car snarling with tire iron in hand but I am paralyzed in flabbergast and before I can let my anger move me to action the light is green; I am turning, he is travelling straight and what a backwards metaphor that was.

Things happen for good and right reasons and I know now that had that happened, she would have been shamed. The shame would not have been based on my behavior, but on her burst bubble of innocence at my stark explanation of the whys and the wherefores behind her bare-legged, rage-unmasked momma’s dropping this waste of flesh from his lecherous station. So things unfurl for the ultimate good, I imagine. Her innocence is still firmly in place while mine has had yet another pulsing chunk torn from it.

Still, though, I feel the heavy balance of the tire tool in my hand, feel the heat of traffic playing at the hem of my skirt, feel the ragged and primal satisfaction of crunching the steel into the man’s face, the top of his head, his cries of surprise and fresh blood mingling there in the bright day. I see all this as clearly as if it had most certainly happened.

And now there is a ‘boyfriend’, one who is well-mannered and sweet in nature and comes from a very good family with a solid core of values that I have no quarrels with. They use the ‘l’ word in that ‘this-is-what-we’re-supposed-to-say-if-we’re-boyfriend’n'girlfriend’ way. Stepdad does the requisite scoffing when papers with flowery doodles and the words ‘me-n-tyler’, ‘i love tyler’ escape her binder under his vigilant eyes: He boldly informs her that pfft, she doesn’t love anyone, she’s not allowed, she is to love only her mother and father and stepfather and brothers until she is twenty-eight, when the matter just may be open for further discussion.

‘Boyfriend’, who lives in a neighboring town, politely requested that his mother take him shopping shortly before this past Christmas. On Christmas Eve day, while I was elbow-deep in cookie dough and extended family and two sons gregariously peppering the air with carols from somber to irreverent, the doorbell rang. The girlchild, expecting more family, brightly said she’d get the door and removed her apron. She was gone for some time and just as I was turning my oven mitts over to my mother to go see what the holdup was, I was met with a shy smile and an extended arm containing a tiny ivory box.

“Look,” she said, “Tyler brought me a Christmas present.”

I was immediately taken aback by the size of the box, my mind trying to grasp the fact that there was no goofy stuffed animal lying in wait, no plastic glittery hairbrush with matching comb, no fruit-flavored lipgloss set in swirls of garish pinks and purples. The little lid was opened to reveal dainty gold posts holding emerald chips (small, but generous by gemstone chip standards)….her birthstone. My mom and I exchanged raised-eyebrow looks above the small blonde head as she dropped her gaze to the box once again. The kid knows Nice Things, and she realized that this was something big; she realized the gift for what it was, the first Nice Thing given to her by a boy not related to her.

Fuck. We, not two days before, had gifted him with a sackful of action figures. Fuck.

His mother, someone I like very much in spite of the fact that she is a female, explained carefully to me that the boy carefully peeled a few bills from his savings, asked her to take him Christmas shopping, and proceeded to pick this gift in a thoughtful and earnest manner. She told me that he got no prompting from her save the ten years’ worth of raising she had invested in him thus far and I believed her. She sounded as covertly unnerved/frightened as I was and besides, we’re not a monetarily wealthy family….so I know that she’s not plying her kid into canoodling my young one for the impending splash of dowry money into his bank account.

You laugh, but there are mothers on the make the minute their kids crown; those bitches are planning and plotting on behalf of their offspring before the body is fully delivered, while the head is hanging out and being suctioned free of perinatal goo. That Culkin kid’s folks: I rest my case.

Lately nine has been surly in turns, her sweet, steady self at other times. These times are jaggedly unpredictable and I’ve only caught on in the last week or so. The oh-no-here-we-go realization hit out of nowhere, but I didn’t meet it with a dread so much as an ohhhh, HEY, I geddit, der.

I bought her a new pair of jammies the other day, the kind she likes with comfy drawstring pants and a matching tank top. She wore them last night as she kissed me goodnight. Just as she got to the doorway of the family room I called her back to me with the untruth that I thought I’d seen something on her shoulder. In all actuality I was trying to prove that what I’d seen before (having nothing at all to do with a shoulder) was a trick of the light, some phantom vision my fatigued eyes had cooked up. I shouldn’t have been taken aback by the sight of real, actual breasts growing there where not so long ago there were just the faintest of bumps. She has, after all, had the hint of a curve at her waist as early as age six and I started buying mock-bras for her on the backend of year seven.

I am the mother of someone who, in a few short years, will be a woman and to tell you the truth, I’m abjectly terrified. Just don’t tell her that. Don’t tell her that because my fallability and humanness and fall from grace will be three of the things necessary in relation to her evolution, to her becoming.

7 worked it out »

  1. Tim 2.17.2003

    Someone in one of my writing workshops mentioned the Shawn Colvin song “I’d Say I’m Sorry Now” in relation to her seven-year-old boy.

  2. Tim 2.17.2003

    I guess to finish my thought (which I obviously didn’t do below), she laments the fact that she knows she’s going to let her son down at some point, and it breaks her heart.

  3. Dean 2.17.2003

    Great post Jett. Got all kinds of emotions flowing in me.

    As the father of a nine – soon to be ten – year old girl, I can say that I too am terrified…. She is my first child, my only daughter, and she is growing up way too fast for her Daddy (who she insists on now calling only “Dad”). Yep, terrified is an accurate description…

  4. April Love 2.17.2003

    As I sit here weeping, that brought lots of things to mind. Mostly how much I love you and those kids, especially her. I’m gonna miss you guys SO much.

  5. Jett 2.19.2003

    Deano: thanks….I wonder, do you ever catch glimpses of the woman that your girlchild will eventually become? Because I think that’s one of the most powerful things about having a daughter. I can see the woman that Scout will be someday at times….it shimmers and then goes away so quickly that I’m wondering what I really saw.

    Girls are magic. Every man needs a daughter. The world would be entirely different were that so.

  6. Jett 2.19.2003

    timato: it does, it so does, the little ways that you fuck up on a weekly basis; things that they might never even recognize but that rattle in your conscience like a hive of angry bees.

    You hold these little things in your arms and vow to them that you’ll never, ever fuck up, but there’s your first lie because you are still human, after all.

  7. Dean 2.20.2003


    I most definitely catch those flashes of womanhood – then comes the wash of feelings – pride, fright, nostalgia, hope…

    The good thing is that she’ll always be my little girl in some way. I know that when I see my wife sitting on her Dad’s lap.

    And you’re right, every man should have a daughter…..


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