Sunday, August 31, 2008

Girlfriend

I started writing this post about a year ago. Mostly, it was about Helena coming into her own as a person, being her own little girl, and about some of the resulting turmoil I'd been experiencing as her mother.

In a year, little has changed — she's still coming into her own as a person (does it ever stop?), and I still feel turmoil about it — and everything has changed.

I don't write about her here as much as I'd like. I say this is because I think she deserves her privacy, but this is also a convenient excuse. The truth is it's hard to write about her: Mind you, I feel that I don't write about her per se; I write about the experience of motherhood (which happens to pertain to her). (Just as, generally, I don't write about books; I write about how they affect me.) And that is extremely personal, which makes it difficult to articulate — to myself, let alone others.

So. This post I started writing a year ago... much of it existed only in my head; what few words I'd written, I've essentially deleted. So, why do I even bother to revisit it now? Because I think my daughter is amazingly cool, and I want to remember, now and for always.

What I wanted to say then...

Helena bought her first CD. I don't know how it came about, but Helena loves Avril Lavigne. (Loved? This phase may already be over...) I think particularly the pink in her hair. After seeing repeated promos for a concert to be broadcast on TV last summer, we had to watch. Weeks went by, and Helena kept singing her songs and asking for a CD. Maybe I'm wrong, but Avril to me embodies a better kind of girl power than do many of her contemporaries — besides which she's musically more my style. So it came to pass.

(Do you remember the first record you bought? How old were you? I was 12, and ashamed to say that first album was Asia.)

I bought Helena a Barbie. A year later this seems like no news at all. I'd never been much of a Barbie girl myself, and generally I feel as conflicted about Barbie corporation as I do about Disney, even while this brand name consumption is de rigueur among her peers. Helena wanted a Barbie — begged for one. I thought long and hard. Ultimately, I thought, better to head off the influences of others I may not approve of and introduce her to the world of Barbie myself. I'm proud that, with just the tiniest bit of nudging, she turned away from all the sparkly sluttiness and chose for herself something altogether more wholesome, Barbie in jeans and with a pony, seeming to me the right formula for realistic fantasy play. Helena has of course received more Barbies since, but I'm glad the first one came from me.

Then there was Julie, a new educatrice at the daycare. Helena was enamored of her. "You know, Mom, I love Julie more than you. She smells sssoooo good." I haven't heard of Julie in months; she hadn't worked there long. Funny about smell, though — so primal and Proustian, smell; I was jealous of Julie. But most days when I tuck Helena in, she tells me I smell good, and my heart soars.

(My mother wore perfume, still wears it, and it triggers a migraine. When I'm around, I've asked her not to. But still she does. She puts so little, she says. But I still have to breathe away from her, can't breathe her in. She had a scarf, however, that smelled like her, like her beneath the cologne, and some years ago I asked to have it. Even after repeated washings, I smell her in it, faint, but there, around my neck.)

What I want to say now...

Helena asks to have her radio on when I tuck her in. We went through a phase of this, a year ago, and sometime before that, and she'd listen to classical music to fall asleep. Now she asks to change the station and settles on "classic rock," so she's falling asleep to 54-40, Led Zeppelin, and U2. I check in on her the other night; she's still awake, and I ask if I should turn the radio off. "No. I'm not dancing, Mom. I'm listening to it quietly, like this. I like listening to music, especially cool music. Rock and roll is cool." And then she plays a couple bars of air guitar along to Heart.

Last week she was singing Foo Fighters in the bathtub.

Helena started school last week. Kindergarten.

Look at me
Look at me
Just called to say that it's good to be
ALIVE
In such a small world...


Day 2 her father dropped her off. When her teacher came out to corral the kids, Helena simply turned around and said, "Bye, Dad."

*****

"You're my best friend, Momma. We'll always be best friends, won't we, Momma?" For a little while longer, at least.
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