Sunday, July 31, 2005

My other wife

Many of you may not know this, but I am a bigamist. Some months ago I was so taken with one of Jo Spanglemonkey's posts that I impulsively proposed to her. To my great honor, she accepted.

It's true that we've never met in person, but that didn't seem to be an impediment. Of course, she is already married, but then so am I; both of our main spouses appear to be admirably secure and unthreatened by this arrangement. In fact, it emerged rather quickly that I'm not even Jo's first spouse-on-the-side; her oldest friend, Ms. Jane, is her Senior Wife of long standing. But I am proud just to have a place in the Spanglemonkey harem.

So, since I can't wish her Happy Birthday in person today, I've taken the liberty of composing an Ode to Jo on her Non-Stop Birthday Party Extravaganza Delight! blog. Go on over there or to her main site and wish her a happy day!

Friday, July 29, 2005

The House on the Mountain, Part III: View from the Next Hill, 2005

Or, The Forrresters’ Annual Picnic and Other Miracles

Link to Part 1

Link to Part 2

Two weeks ago, we were back in Molson again, this time on a family-obligation mission: to give almost-five-year-old Mermaid Girl a chance to visit with Nana Skatermom and Grandpa Skaterdad. (Renaissance Woman sometimes speculates that Skatermom, despite her affably chit-chatty front, is really psychic. She was definitely on the money, though about twenty years prescient, when she worried about Skaterboy knocking RW up.) They’ve met her before, on visits to Skaterboy in Vancouver and to us in Seattle, but this was her first ever visit to their house in Molson, Where Mama and Uncle Skaterboy Lived When They Were Teenagers.

We camped in our van at a real campsite this time, about twenty miles out of town (the same campground, incidentally, where Renaissance Family stayed when they first arrived some 20 years ago), but drove in to town every day to visit. Skaterfolks—Nana, Grandpa, Aunt Cady, and 12-year-old Cousin Carrie--overwhelmed Mermaid Girl with attention and presents. They took her to the park and pushed her on the swings. They photographed her coasting along the waterfront on her pink scooter, an early birthday present. Carrie insisted (to our gape-mouthed silence and MG’s voluble delight) on bequeathing MG her old Brratz dolls, complete with several changes of skimpy outfits.

So it was that RW’s 43rd birthday found us guests of Skaterparents at the Forrrester’s Picnic and Salmon Bake (Forresters is sort of like the Elks Club), calling out to Mermaid Girl to be safe in the lake, balancing paper plates on our laps, gobbling yummy salmon and macaroni salad and Nanaimo Bars and ambrosia with pink marshmallows in it while chatting with the assembled Forrresters about people RW had known in high school. Skatermom nonchalantly and cheerfully introduced Mermaid Girl as her granddaughter and RW and me as Mermaid Girl’s parents, and no one made a peep about it, at least not in our presence.

RW kept gazing around her, at the pillars of Molson society and the salmon and the kids splashing in the lake, saying things like “Never. Never in a million years would I ever have imagined twenty years ago that I’d be here. At the Forrester’s picnic! In Molson!”

Back at the Skaterhouse, Nana showed us her photo albums, which fill multiple shelves in the laundry room. There were RW and Skaterboy and their friend Jennie, laughing and throwing soapsuds at each other in the very kitchen where Nana had just made dinner for us. There was 4-year-old Skaterboy, posing next to a cherub-faced blond infant who looked uncannily like Mermaid Girl in her baby pictures: his little sister Cady.

And then there was the album lying open on top of the dryer. Nana Skatermom casually waved at it, as she was heading back to the kitchen to stir something: “You can take a look at that if you want. I made albums for all the grandkids. I need to do something with the old school photos, anyway, you know?”

The album had Mermaid Girl’s name on the spine. I paged through it, and there were color printouts of dozens of photos from the website RW has maintained of her since she was born: her hospital photos. Cutesy pictures from her infancy. Photos from her previous visits with Nana and Grandpa Skaterboy, of course, and several of her with Skaterboy himself, but more, too: Her adoption-day photo, with the judge smiling genially behind his desk. Pictures of MG with my dad, with my mom, with me and RW smiling goofily at her. A shot of her with my whole extended family, on her first trip to New York. All carefully captioned: “Mermaid Girl and her Grandpa Booland.” “Mermaid Girl on Elswhere’s [female] cousin’s [female] partner, Dina’s lap.” “Mermaid Girl at Passover,” “Mermaid Girl at RW and Elswhere’s wedding in Vancouver.”

I stood at the dryer and leafed through that album for a long time, thinking about love, about family, about the improbabilities and bonds and crazy alliances that had led me to this place, this room. And thinking about how this woman’s ordinary and innocuous love spread to all of us: her gay son’s biological child; his weirdo hippie friend from high school and me, her Jewish lesbian lover; my own family and their lovers, whom she’s never even met, who live in places she’s never been and who will never come to Molson, but who are here in this album, in the laundry room, and will be here in twenty, thirty, maybe forty years when Carrie and MG’s kids leaf through to gawk at the funny clothes people wore back then at the turn of the millennium.

After all that, it seemed like an anticlimax to look for the old mountainside house again, but we tried. On our way out of town, RW looked for the side road off the main road, but ended up driving in circles around a new subdivision: this area was the middle of nowhere when she lived here, but now it’s a hot property, and development is creeping up the hill. RW was thrown by all the streets having names, and took a road that turned out to be the wrong one, but still familiar to her. “Our neighbors lived up this road!” she said. “The ones a half mile across the creek!”

We drove up anyway, past the subdivision to where it was just trees and dirt road, then pulled over and got out of the car to wander around. MG picked up stones to keep as souvenirs. I tried out my new camera on the scenery. RW stalked the side of the road, shading her brow and peering past the trees. “Look!” she said. “Over there. On the next hill over, way up there? That red roof? I think that was our house.”

It was all alone, barely visible, a small red blur more than halfway up the mountain, far away even now from any creeping subdivisions, that roof her parents put up out of who knows what—desperation, idealism, silliness, some book they’d read—just before their marriage broke up one final time. RW lived there and sat in the picture window writing in her journal by moonlight, and practiced the flute and learned to read music there, talked on the phone there with Skaterboy when Debbie up the road got done chatting with her boyfriend on the party line. She said she loved being so high up the mountainside you could see the treeless peaks across the valley, and bask in sunshine above the fog blanketing the river valley below.

If it weren’t for the house under that red roof, I would never have been to that salmon bake or stood in that laundry room last week. I never would have taken that dreamlike fogbound trip across the lake six years ago. If it weren’t for that house, Mermaid Girl wouldn’t be here.

We all looked at it reverently for a minute, shading our eyes against the sun. “Yeah, I’m pretty sure that was it,” Renaissance Woman said. Then the three of us got back in the car and drove down the mountain, heading West to the coast and our home.


"Mommy, I figured out how you make water, if you ever need water! You just get some ice, and put it in a warm place, and turns into water!"

Notes on Camp

I just dropped the Mermaid Girl off for her last day of Zoo Camp: one week, 1 PM-4 PM, and presumably they are learning all about mammals, though the only fact I've been able to worm out of MG is that Sun Bears are the smallest bears in the world! She told me it was a secret. And here I am blabbing it to the whole Internet.

She loved it so much that she wore shorts all week without complaining, because the literature specified no dresses or skirts. She proudly donned the oversized green Zoo Camp T-shirt every day. She said goodbye to me at the gate with barely a wave, and bopped in to the Zoo Education Center without even looking back. She cried this morning because it was the last day and she would never have those counselors again! Or get to do buddies! Or see all the beautiful animals! Never mind that we have zoo memberships and can go any time, it won't be the saaaaaaame!

Of course, she cries at every possible transition. She cried at the end of Fiddler on the Roof when we went to see it at a community college last year, because she was never going to see those particular (only barely competent) actors again. Still. It's nice she had a good experience.

She told Renaissance Woman last night that a girl at Zoo Camp said that two girls can't get married. Or two boys, either. MG was more smug than indignant, and told RW "I told her she was wrong, two girls can too get married! I'm going to invite her over to our house so she can see the pictures! And the paper on the piano [our official Canadian marriage certificate; we stuck it in a frame and it's been sitting on the piano for the last year or so]! Then she will know that she's wrong!"

In general, I'm not thrilled about MG's obsession with always being right and other people being wrong. But in this case, well... hah!

RW very diplomatically pointed out that MG shouldn't gloat about the other girl not knowing, that that was the same as us gloating if MG didn't know, say, what 47 and 86 was. But still, and just among us grownups...hah!

I don't expect that she'll always want to be so "out" as a kid of lesbians, or that she'll always be thrilled about it. But for now...hah! Heh! Hee hee!

Yes, I'd say that as a first Big Kid Camp in the Big Non-Alternative World experience, Zoo Camp has been stellar.


I think I've mentioned before that I'm not much of a nature girl. Flora and fauna are not really on my radar. But every once in a while such a compelling specimen appears that I can't let it go by without comment. For example, these two creatures, observed last Tuesday afternoon:

On the right, we see a young Mermaid Girlius in her native habitat: the Wooodland Park Zoo.

On the left, a rare find in these parts: the genus Milkbreathium, most commonly spotted in the Vancouver area, but apparently visiting the Southern climes of Seattle earlier this week.

The Milkbreathium is an adventurous sort, especially when accompanied by his intrepid mother, who is able to navigate hundreds of miles of highway on the strength of a brief and slightly erroneous set of directions.

In other words, Rachel and Byron came to visit this week! Rachel has blogged about the visit here, to which I can only add that it was a total treat to meet them both, and Byron is just the way he describes him in her blog, or if possible even more charming.

Come back soon, you guys!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The House on the Mountain, Part II: In the House, 1999

Or, Everything That Rises Must Converge

Link to part 1

Six years ago, Renaissance Woman and her girlfriend (me! But you knew that), returned to her old haunts on our way to a wedding. I'd heard so many stories about this place-- the beautiful mountains, the desolate mill town, the mean school bus driver with the biting dog--that it felt like a fairy tale.

We came in on a ferry. The mountains across the lake emerged slowly out of the fog. It was dark by the time we found our campsite. "I can't believe we're really here," I kept saying as we set up the tent.

In the morning, we emerged to find that our campsite was right in town itself, just a few blocks from RW's old high school. It was a little like waking up to discover that you've pitched your tent on Main Street. We packed up and drove around, RW marvelling at the renaissance that had transformed the place: over the last fifteen years, the scorned hippies had taken over and revitalized the town with small businesses; organic food restaurants and groovy tchotchke shops were everywhere.

We drove past Skaterboy's old house and considered saying hi to his mom, but decided not to. Instead, I begged Renaissance Woman to take me out of town and up the mountain to the house her parents built.

"I'm sure it's gone," she said, on the road out of town. "My dad sold it a little after I left, and I can't imagine anyone would stay in it for long. Oh-- that's the road!"

She turned right and put the little red Civic into first, gunning up the mountain. "It'd just be a pile of rubble now," she protested as the road turned to dirt and we bumped along.

We forked off onto an even smaller, steeper, bumpier dirt road. "This is the turnoff, it must be," she muttered. "There won't be anything to see, though."

We bumped and revved up the mountain, higher and higher, past signs that grew ever more forbidding: "Private Property." "No Trespassing." "Absolutely No Trespassers!" Even if we'd wanted to flee, there was no place to turn around. So we jolted onwards until the slope levelled off and we came to a clearing. In the clearing stood a wooden house, with a view of mountains invisible from down in the valley.

"That's it," RW breathed. "That's the house."

We nosed around the outside, peering in windows. A rifle lay on the sofa; that didn't look promising. On the other hand, the house was actually in better shape than it had been when RW'd seen it last. It was rustic and woodsy in a well-kept-up kind of way. There was a porch and a glass door, and it looked like there was running water.

While we dithered about what to do, the owner came back from his trip to town. It was the same guy who’d bought the house from RW's parents almost twenty years earlier.

Despite the rifle and the scary signs, he was gentle and welcoming. He showed us around the house, pointing out improvements he’d made over the years (“Hot water!” RW gasped). His own daughter had used RW’s old room as her bedroom when she lived there, and he showed us the wooden nameplate he’d made for her. The skylight was still there. He had hand-carved sills for all the windows out of trees that grew on the property.

Alas, part of the house’s history had repeated itself, and his wife and daughter had left him a few years earlier and moved into town. He seemed relatively content, though, and happy to talk with RW about changes in the house and the town. He’d even kept the books her dad left behind—her mom’s philosophy textbooks, her dad’s science fiction novels, some folktales and poetry-- and asked her if she wanted any of them back.

She took a couple of books, a gift from the past to her present life. We thanked him, and drove away in our Civic, feeling like we’d just seen Brigadoon, or a living-history museum, or a dream.

Friday, July 22, 2005

The House on the Mountain, Part I: The Story, 1974-78

Or, When Skirts were Long, Tempers were Short, and Both were Flared*

Long, long ago, in a land up North, a family decided, in the fashion of the times, to forsake their suburban professional lives and go Back to the Land. The parents explained to their 12-year-old daughter, Renaissance Girl, that they'd be leaving Toronto and moving to the wilds of rural British Columbia to build their own house. Not that they had any idea of how to do such a thing, mind you.

After a couple of years in rented houses on various islands, the family bought some land way up on a mountainside, on the edge of a small town near a bigger town called (let's say) Molson, near the Canadian Rockies. Molson was mainly a dying mill town, though there was beginning to be an influx of hippies around the fringes. Those hippies were Renaissance Parents' friends, but mostly they were a bit younger, and their kids were a lot younger than Renaissance Girl, so she went to high school as the only weirdo hippie kid around a bunch of mill kids. She was used to that sort of thing, as she'd always been a nerd wherever she was. And eventually she did find a few friends, outsiders in their own hometown. They formed their own little band, passing notes in class in Elvish and hanging out at each others' houses baking cookies.

Renaissance Girl had to hike a couple of miles down the hill to get to the school bus ten miles into town. There was no electricity and no hot water, actually no running water at all, except what dripped off the roof into the rain barrel. So she shoveled paths to the outhouse, and poured water heated on a Coleman stove into a dishtub to stand on her head to wash her long hair, or took showers at the public swimming pool. Winters were very cold and snowy and isolated. She did have a sweet little room, though, with a view of the mountains, and a lovely skylight through which she could see hundreds of stars at night: Cassiopia’s Chair on the Fall Equinox, the Big Dipper on the Spring. There was a romantic appeal to living so far off the grid; she felt it as much as her parents.

After a couple of years, the big project and the romantic appeal weren't enough to keep her parents' marriage going, and her mom left for Vancouver. Renaissance Girl, who was 15 by then, got the flu that winter while her dad was out of town, and couldn’t get down the mountain to go to school. She decided it would be easier to live on her own in town than to depend on her dad, who was having a hard time just keeping it together. So her parents chipped in for the rent on a tiny apartment in town, only two miles from her best friend Skaterboy.

Skaterboy's mom didn't totally approve of RG; she didn't like hippies, and especially after RG got her own apartment Skatermom worried that Skaterboy and RG would make her a grandma way before she wanted to be one. Renaissance Girl was often tempted to reassure her: "Don't worry, Mrs. Skater, we're just smoking pot," but wisely refrained.

But Skatermom was also concerned about RG, and often ended up inviting her to dinner, after conversations that went something like this: Skatermom: "What are you having for dinner tonight, RG?" Renaissance Girl, with vague innocent look: "Oh, peanut butter..." Skatermom, briskly: "No, you're not. You're staying here and having chicken with us." RG, brightly and just as disingenuously: “Okay!”

Living on her own didn't work out so well either, in the long run, and eventually Renaissance Girl joined her mom in Vancouver to finish out high school. She went to college in the States, moved to Seattle, and--just like someone in an old story, or a Bruce Springsteen song--never went back to that dying mill town.

To Be Continued.

*This subtitle courtesy of Renaissance Woman, who also contributed her able editorial advice and fact-checking, not to mention generous permission to post a big chunk of her life story. Thanks, RW!

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Things fall apart. Or just fall. Again.

We're back!

Pulled into our driveway at 1 AM on Sunday (or rather, Monday morning), my dad arrived Monday evening. Yesterday, in an attempt to design a low-key yet interesting neighborhoody day and promote bonding between grandparent and grandchild, I took Mermaid Girl and my dad for a walk down to the deli and then to the library so MG could hand in her Summer Reading record sheet with requisite hoopla and picture-taking. We also took the Incredible Pink Scooter that Aunt Cady gave her in Molson, BC, which we then schlepped across the province, shoving it into the sleeping-bag storage closet every night.

But I digress. Because the point is, we took the scooter and also the brand-new Polllly Pucket Mermaids, because I suggested to MG that she might want something to play with in the restaurant. I even offered to carry them in my own pockets, though I think they also spent some time in the scooter basket, which in turn spent some time hoisted in turn over my dad's and my respective shoulders as MG refused to ride it for longer than a few yards at a time.

You may be able to guess where this is going (hint: see the Pride Parade post for foreshadowing). Several hundred hours and a couple dozen low-level power struggles later, we returned to the house, and then came the inevitable question: "Mommy? My new Pollly Puckets that I just bought with my own money? Mommy? MOMMY?!?!?! WAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!"

By that point Jessie had been dropped off for an afternoon visit because she and MG couldn't stand one more moment out of each other's sight, but poor Jessie had to sit around for half an hour or so while MG moaned and sobbed and I called the deli and the library and no, they hadn't seen two tiny little mermaid dolls, sorry. I briefly considered dragging everyone out again into the hot afternoon to retrace our steps, or else leaving the stoic Jessie and the wailing, keening MG with my dad--who was still recovering from the previous day's 14-hour standby nightmare--while I looked on my own, but neither one seemed like such a great idea.

Finally MG knucked under to my threats to take Jessie home if she didn't pull it together and act like some kind of hostess (empty threats, as it turned out, because I called Jessie's mom and no one was home) and put aside her grief to splash in the backyard wading pool. My dad read the paper, and I did laundry and struggled with the moral dilemma of what to do.

This morning we called the Matttel people, who said they don't carry individual parts for these particular items (both dolls were part of elaborate product sets) because the cost with shipping would be more than just buying a whole new damn set. We're still thinking about whether it's worth ordering the sets again.

My offer to MG at the moment is that if she wants to buy replacement dolls, I'll pay for half. She has enough money right now to do this deal but one of the sets, but not both. She's now mostly okay, but is subject to fits of Pollly-Pucket related melancholy.

Which leaves me with the following conclusions:

1) I'm either a wussy marshmallow parent who doesn't allow her child to become responsible for her own things, or a mean mommy who loses her kid's brand-new dolls that she bought with her own lemonade-selling money and then refuses to replace them. Or both.

2) In either case, dealing calmly and decisively with this kind of crisis is not, to put it mildly, my forte.

3) As of today, the Boredom-Forestalling Objects of Choice for outings with MG will be limited to paper and pencils so she can draw. Anything else she wants to bring, she's strictly on her own.

4) I should rename my blog "The art of Losing," since that's all we seem to do these days. (You should've heard RW and me on the trip. Every day, the same thing: "Where's the...[fill in name of small but important object here]?" "I don't know; where'd you put it?" "I thought you put it away!" "I thought you put it away!" etc. etc. until we were ready to throw each other off the numerous scenic mountains.)

5) While writing this post, I finally hit upon a much more effective method for promoting grandparent-grandchild bonding: disappear from the scene and hide in the bedroom with the computer! MG and my dad are happily reading The Dumb Bunnies, and I am happily not-dragging-everyone-around-town.

Okay. Now I'm going to promote even more bonding by catching up on everyone else's blogs. Trip news coming soon. It's good to be back. Really. It is.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

There's a reason "Travels" is part of the blog name.

Back last night from LA, heads spinning in a haze of family visits and Santa Monica Pier rides. And the ocean, the real ocean! Into which I got to dip my feet a tantalizingly few times.

We took Uncle Sailorman to the Pier on probably the busiest day possible, July 3. It was kind of a dopey thing to do but it was the only day we had entirely free. We drove him in our rental car and then wheeled him around. In retrospect, it would've been eaiser and safer to take him on the bus in his chair, as the transfers into and out of the car were verrrry tricky.

I think he might've liked it, though. RW is sure he did. It was hard to tell. He wouldn't express a preference for anything, just said "sure, fine, whatever's easiest for you" to whatever we asked.

Just before we left, the Activities Director at his nursing home gave a Furby to the besotted Mermaid Girl. Oh. My. God. I have never so wanted to throw a toy across the room, or in this case out of the car. Have you ever seen one of those things? Or, more to the point, heard them? It's like having a sugar-hyped 3-year-old around. And we've done that already. Yammer, yammer, yammer, yammer, all the way to the airport. There was no off switch, either. And the batteries won't come out without a screwdriver. No wonder that fad never took off.

Even MG had had enough after half an hour or so. "Be quiet!" she snapped, but it continued yak yak yaking about how it was hungry and tired and loved us and whatever. I jokingly suggested hitting it on the head with a mallet. "I have a stick," MG suggested brightly, and bopped it, which just made it squawk more.

Finally I shoved it in a canvas bag under our sweatshirts and it appeared to go to sleep. I was kind of hoping the security people would confiscate it, but no such luck.

Anyway: home again! And gone again, this time on a tour around British Columbia in Twinkie the Van, starting on Friday afternoon! It hardly seems worth unpacking.

Monday, July 04, 2005


Notes towards something more cohesive someday:

I've been thinking about beauty. What it means, what it's good for, and particularly what it's not good for. Mermaid Girl's particular brand of blond-little-girl beauty, to be specific.

Maybe it's because I'm in Lost Angeles this weekend, Land of the Beautiful People (and yes, Aleeska Air did eventually find us two seats together so Mermaid Girl didn't have to sit by herself in a center row, though the woman at the gate was dopier about it than I would've imagined possible), or maybe it's because we've been spending time with my Uncle Sailorman, who has some old-fashioned "thank-heaven-for-little-girls" ideas about girls and women and can't stop talking about what a looker MG is.

Or maybe it's because I've just read two books--White Oleander and the third Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants book--each of which features a strikingly beautiful blond character who is deeply flawed as a person, and whose flaws are bound up with her beauty in a sort of looks-ist version of the pathetic fallacy.

Or it could be the attention MG's been getting at all the parades and festivals we've been to lately: the Fremont Fair, then Pride, then the fireworks at Santa Monica College the other night. Mostly Mermaid Girl's life is made up of people she knows, in familiar places. But at these huge gatherings of strangers, MG gets the kind of attention I don't ever remember getting. People--total strangers--give her things--necklaces, flowers, garlands of ribbons--just because she's pretty and blond. I know it's not just because she's a cute kid, because Jessie is adorable, and we were with some family friends at the fireworks whose kids are as cute as you could wish--and no one was giving them stuff. It was weird and kind of embarrassing to RW and me.

I've been wanting to write about this for a while, and hesitated because I don't want to be kind of back-handed braggy. After all, who doesn't want people to think their kid is gorgeous? And it's not like I'm not captivated by her beauty, myself, and I'm conflicted about that too. If she was a funny-looking kid, would I love her less? Am I that shallow? I'm a feminist and a lesbian, for goddesss sake! This is not me! And yet I look at her little heart-shaped face and the wisps of cornsilk hair fallen out of her braids, and my heart swells with...pride? What's to be proud about? She didn't do anything to get this. It's a gift, freaky and random. I just hope it's not a poisoned one.

I've never felt like looks were that important. And I vaguely heard about studies where people who are considered conventionally attractive tend to earn more, etc...I just never understood how deep that advantage goes.

And of course the racist subtext of all the fawning over blondness.

Our moms might tell you different, but neither RW nor I was ever that kind of beautiful as a kid, so we don't know how to deal with it. And no one born into my Eastern-European-Jewish family has *ever* been blond, as you can imagine. RW has brown hair, and so does MG's biodad, the dashing Uncle Skaterboy. So when I first saw that shock of yellow-white hair on our newborn baby's head in the delivery room, I was...shocked. Both of us were. It was as if our child had pulled together all the genes she could find to make the strongest possible immediate statement that she was not like us, not a little miniature nerdy elswhere/Renaissance Woman meld, but her own person entirely. "I feel like we thought we're the parents of a baby tiger," RW said that night, and I knew just what she meant.

Looks are what we have, our calling card, our face is what people see first. (Except on the Internet. I guess that's why the Internet has that weird kind of intimacy--you see the core of someone before you see the surface, it's all backwards.) Mostly, people look just regular, you notice that, and then you find out what they're like. But when someone's looks are striking--if they're unusually beautiful, or if they have some other distinguishing feature that makes people more uncomfortable, like RW's cleft palate that looked worse when she was a kid--it's like they *become* their looks, their looks overwhelm anything else you might notice about who they are as a person.

(This has happened to me at times in my life when my psoriasis has been really bad. But I've always felt like because I didn't get it until I was 16, when my sense of myself was pretty well formed already, it didn't affect the way I felt about myself, even if it affected the way other people saw me.)

MG's getting old enough to notice some of this, now. I don't want her to: don't want her to use it, to take advantage of it, to think that she is how she looks. We try to downplay it, to emphasize other things like smart thinking and politeness and kindness and courage, but then we sabotage ourselves by going on about how she looks good in some outfit or other, or with her hair in braids.

It's made me think about other random gifts: intelligence, for one, which I've always been proud of. But maybe that's just as bad as someone giving MG a flower just because she's blond? Maybe she is her looks, after all, as much as I am my smarts? Or, conversely, I have as little to to with that as she does with her hair?

I always hated that line, I forget who wrote it, "Only God, my dear, could love you for yourself alone and not your yellow hair." But now I seem to be living it.