Miss Thing and Mammie Talk Facebook and Family

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I call her Mammie; we all do.

And ever since I was a child, she has been one of my most favorite people in the world. We look very similar in pictures from our teenage years, and we both appreciate coffee, hunky men on the Hallmark Channel, and a good belly laugh.

Last year when I received a Facebook friend request from her, I was thrilled that we could communicate online and that I could share essays I write,  pictures of my kids,   and some of the events Mammie is unable to attend.

I’ve enjoyed her presence on Facebook so much that I wrote a story about it, and it was included in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents.

I love that on Facebook, I am Miss Thing and we are all Mammie’s Doll Babies.

I wanted to celebrate the release of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents this week by interviewing Mammie about her Facebook experience. Here is what she had to say:

 

Q: Why did you want a Facebook account?

A: Being at home a lot, I figured it would be fun and interesting and would help me keep abreast of the world and my family.

Q: What do you like about Facebook the most?

A: Seeing my grandchildren’s pics and family’s pics and knowing what they’re all doing.

Q: What do you dislike?

A: Rude remarks and vulgar language. I quickly delete it all from my feed.

Q: What is the funniest thing you’ve read or seen since you opened your account?

A: Too many to keep up with. Something one of my grandchildren said.

Q: Which grandchild?

A: I’m not telling.

Q: What advice would you give to others your age who might be considering joining Facebook?

A: It brings you closer to your family, even in thought. Maybe you can’t always be there in person to keep up with changes or their education, so this is the next best thing. Also, don’t put anything too personal out there, and don’t accept friend requests from people you don’t know.

Q: What is the best part of being a grandmother?

A: When I’m at home, sitting in my chair, they come in the door, run straight to me and say, “Hey, Mammie! I love you!”

Q: What is something you would like people to know about you?

A: That I’m beautiful! Hahaha! And that I have the best family in the whole world.

 

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents is available online and in stores March 26, 2019.

Below is an excerpt from my story, “Mammie’s Doll Babies.”

Sometimes, Mammie’s presence on Facebook makes me chuckle. One day, I woke up to 38 notifications from her. She was up at 3 in the morning, liking pictures from two years ago. I figured she must have had trouble sleeping, and she was looking at pictures to help pass the time.

Then there’s her special way of commenting on posts. She calls us all her doll babies, even those of  us who are approaching 40 years old, and she always signs her comments, “Love, Mammie.” After I posted a picture of my kids and me on a recent camping trip, she commented, “Here are three of Mammie’s little doll babies. Looks like a fun and happy time. Love you, Mammie.”

A friend asked me the other day if I was going to tell her that she didn’t need to sign her name at the end of her comments.

“I sure am not,” I told my friend. “She can use Facebook however she wants. I’m not criticizing a thing about what she does.”

Read more in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents.

 

Myrtle and Me

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by Melissa Face

***Published in Parhelion Literary Magazine – February 2019

When I first arrived, Myrtle greeted me with the embrace of a summer cousin, welcoming and warm. Her palm trees and wide beaches summoned me. Her nightlife on Ocean Boulevard by the Pavilion captivated me. I couldn’t wait to settle in and taste all the excitement she had to offer.

My stay on the Grand Strand was supposed to last only for that one summer, then I would return home. A month earlier, after wrapping up my sophomore year at a Virginia college, I begged my parents to allow me to do something different with my break from school, let me go away for a while. I couldn’t take another claustrophobic summer working at the diner in my hometown. My mom wrote to her cousins, Betty and Garrett, who lived in the old Dunes section of Myrtle Beach, and they agreed to host me for a couple months and offered to help me find work.

As soon as I heard that Myrtle was official, I started packing: clothes, books, pictures of my high school and college friends, and my bathing suit. I was going to be at the beach, after all.

Betty and Garrett couldn’t have been more accommodating. They provided a room, a large rack for my clothes, and a new bed. Almost immediately, I found my first job as a hostess at Chuck’s Steakhouse. I worked as often as they would schedule me, and when I wasn’t working, I shopped and chatted with Betty. She made coffee in the mornings and cooked some in the evenings. In the first few weeks, I read every book I had brought with me and walked to the beach several times by myself. I wasn’t the least bit lonely; I found the solitude completely liberating.

My hostess job was intimidating initially. Everyone else had been together through the spring months, and I was the new girl. Because we shared tips at Chuck’s, I worked hard to help out the wait staff and bartenders in hopes that they would tip out a little more than the required amount.

I helped Antonio more than the others. I quickly cleared his tables so he could seat new parties. He thanked me with secret smiles and a playful grab of the arm. I liked watching him work, his muscles bulging beneath his white Chuck’s t-shirt.

“This is just my part-time gig,” he told me. “I own a business.”

At first I felt offended, as though having just this job were not enough. But I soon learned that almost everyone at Chuck’s had a second job. It was essential to survival; beach rent was high, and wages were low.

One night Antonio and I clocked out at the same time. He watched me climb in my ‘73 Chevelle and pulled up next to me in his red, convertible Camaro.

“Hot girl in a hot car,” he said with a sly grin. Then he peeled out onto Highway 17, a red streak headed north.

At that moment, I knew I had to have him, just a little taste. And I thought that still might not be enough.

Antonio and I dated for a while, if you can call it that. He took me to a couple of pricey restaurants and flashed stacks of cash around when the bill came. His money made sense to me at the time. Antonio was a hard worker. He distributed spring water around the Grand Strand during the day and waited tables at night. But after dates and after our shifts at work, there was no place to invite me back to, nowhere for a night cap or a make-out session on the couch. Antonio was essentially homeless and shacked up with any friends who would have him, from Little River to Murrells Inlet. He stayed until he wore out his welcome, then moved on to the next spot.

I saw him settle up with a former roommate one night after work. Antonio grabbed a small container from his car and handed it to his buddy. He referred to it as payment, but it definitely wasn’t money. I pretended to not notice their little exchange, but I wanted to know what was inside the bottle. I had so many questions. I hoped Myrtle would answer them.

*** 

After work, I saw a side of Myrtle I hadn’t encountered before. Myrtle’s nights were filled with sirens, a darker side of the resort city that tourists knew little about and events that didn’t make it into The Sun News.

I was glad I wasn’t a tourist any longer. I was officially a resident, South Carolina driver’s license and everything. I had the inside scoop on the place I had fallen in love with many summers ago. I loved it even though it was nothing like I thought it would be. I was learning and experiencing things I had never imagined, things that would give my parents nightmares. Things that, if they knew, they would come get me and take me back home.

***

Myrtle was my home now, and I was making friends. And not just Antonio. About a month after I started working at Chuck’s, the manager hired a dark-haired girl named Rose. We hit it off right away and started chatting about tips, customers, and beauty routines.

“You should show more leg,” Rose said, in her sexy southern accent. “Let me take you shopping after work one day next week.”

I explained that my tips didn’t come directly from the customers, so it really didn’t matter how visible my legs were.

“Oh, it always matters, Honey,” she laughed.

Rose and I were happy when our shifts coincided. Time passed quickly for me when she was working. After a few months, she began waiting tables, but I remained a hostess. I was convinced I had made the right decision when Rose fell in the kitchen with a full tray of glasses and dishes. I helped her clean up in the bathroom, wiped her dripping mascara, and picked broken glass from the cuts in her legs.

A few minutes later, she was back working, chatting and serving. Rose was a force, and she made great tips.

“You should see the tips I make at my other job,” she told me.

“Other job?” I asked.

I had to be the only Chuck’s employee who wasn’t moonlighting.

“What are you doing after work tonight?” Rose asked.

I didn’t have plans, but I told her I would need to tell the people I lived with that I was staying the night with her.

“Well, don’t just tell them that,” she said. “Do it! Stay with me. Hell, I’ll even stop by and meet them if it will make you feel better.”

And that’s exactly what we did once my shift ended.

We pulled up to Betty and Garrett’s and went inside to grab my things. I was careful to pack several tops since I still wasn’t sure exactly where we were going. While I grabbed my make-up bag from the bathroom, Rose was already in the middle of a conversation with Betty and Garrett.

They were instantly charmed. After all, Rose was a local. And everyone in Myrtle Beach looked out for other locals.

We said our goodbyes and headed to Rose’s apartment to get ready for our evening out. She applied my eye make-up and loaned me a bra that gave me the extra boost she said I needed. Even though I had brought some tops to wear, I ended up wearing one of Rose’s. It was a little more revealing than what I was used to, but I liked how I looked. And I really liked how I felt.

***

My “summer” fling with Myrtle evolved into an 8-year love affair. It wasn’t always beaches and palm trees, though. There were many dark times, and not just at night. Myrtle introduced me to poverty, addiction, and emptiness. I witnessed an overdose, lost a friend to murder, and learned to work any type of job that would pay my rent.

Myrtle was a stern teacher.

Months after ending things with Antonio, I learned that the Camaro wasn’t even his. He borrowed it from a friend. For some reason, that was an incredible let-down. He didn’t have the financial capability to secure an apartment or make a traditional car payment, but he was able to amass a collection of little bottles that he used for currency. Today, Antonio is in prison in New York state for stealing thousands of dollars worth of equipment and tools from his last job.

I don’t know what happened to Rose. I can still see her silhouette behind the curtain that night we went out together. I remember how the room reeked of stale tobacco and sweaty bodies, but Rose glistened onstage. I was mesmerized by her southern accent initially, then completely enchanted by her movement and confidence.

Maybe she left the area after I did, returned to school and found a stable career. Perhaps she’s still living in Garden City and some nights, she paints her lips ruby red and wraps her legs around the metallic pole before an appreciative crowd. Wherever she is, I hope she is okay and that Myrtle was good to her. I hope she still shines.

The Best Goal He Never Reached

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by Melissa Face

***Published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Resolution – Copyright 2008

I love making lists. I enjoy accomplishing tasks and being able to see my progress on a sheet of paper with lines marked through it. I make shopping lists, lists for chores around the house, and projects at work. I find it incredibly motivating to put my goals on paper. And that is why, at the end of each December, I sit down at my kitchen table with paper and pen and write “The Mother List.”

My New Year’s list is as important to me as any other holiday tradition. Like watching the ball drop in Times Square, or making a midnight champagne toast, my New Year is not official without a complete, updated list.

I make annual financial goals, career goals, fitness goals, and educational goals. Some are very realistic and easily reached. Others are a bit more far fetched and require a lot of wishful thinking. But that’s okay. January is the perfect month for high hopes and big dreams.

About seven years ago, my New Year’s list included going back to school for a graduate degree. I knew it would be a difficult task for a working adult, but I had to go for it, especially once my goal was on paper. I took courses on Saturdays and Sundays and worked Monday through Friday. I was quickly reminded why I was so happy and relieved when I finally completed my undergraduate degree. The stress was overwhelming: working on papers until 3:00 a.m., sitting in class for eight hours, and dreaming about oversleeping and missing class. That actually happened once. I finished the degree and crossed it off my list.

Four years ago, the first item on my list was to become a published writer. I had always been passionate about writing, but my credits were limited to a few high school publications and a local poetry contest. At the time, I was working for a company that published a weekly newspaper. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose, so I proposed a column idea to the publisher. He liked my proposal and my first article went to press in November of that year. I reached my goal.

I wrote for that paper, The Myrtle Beach Herald, for a little more than two years. I wrote a business column, covered a Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan concert, and interviewed numerous officials in the Myrtle Beach area and surrounding counties. But no one of political importance or celebrity status made a bigger impression on me than a lady named Rennie Lansberg.

I interviewed Mrs. Lansberg, a recent widow, for the obituary section of the paper. It was my job to find out all I could about her deceased husband and write a piece that truly captured his essence. It was the most challenging assignment I had ever been given. How do you write, in 400 words or fewer, a person’s life story? How do you determine what to include and what to leave out?

Mrs. Lansberg told me that her husband, Fred, was a religious man who treasured his family and his friendships. He loved to travel, especially on all-inclusive cruise ships, and his favorite food was Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches. In fact, that was his last meal.

Fred Lansberg was the type of man anyone would be proud to call a friend. He cooked for the homeless, donated blood regularly, and worked tirelessly for his church. He was a former accountant, and though he was a dedicated employee who was named “favorite bean counter”, he was equally dedicated to his social life. Fred Lansberg was often found surrounded by friends, wearing a t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops, and a broad smile.

Towards the end of the emotionally draining interview, Mrs. Lansberg told me that her husband was a very goal-oriented person and that he made many lists. She said his most recent goal had been to read his father’s entire collection of Charles Dickens novels. “He didn’t do it though,” she said. “He was too busy enjoying his life.”

As it turns out, it was the best goal he never reached.

The brief time I spent interviewing Rennie Lansberg has made a lasting impression on me. I think about her story often, especially in December when I sit down to write my annual list. I have not stopped writing my list, but this experience has changed my perspective.

Last year, I accomplished most of my goals. I paid down the credit card balance, exercised more, and cut back on sugar. But I did not get around to organizing my home,  labeling my digital photos, or reading all the books stacked on my shelf. I planned to, but I didn’t have the time. I was too busy enjoying life.

All I Want for Christmas

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by Melissa Face

This year, Evan and Delaney (respectively) asked Santa for smelly markers and cat stuff. I quit worrying a long time ago about whether Santa (or anyone waiting behind us in line to visit him) would think we were a strange family. It’s okay. I know we are.

I also know that Santa appreciated their modest, budget-friendly wish list because the days for simple requests are definitely numbered in our household. They will soon ask for big-ticket items like expensive shoes, gaming systems, and tech gadgets that haven’t even been invented yet. But not this year. This would be the Christmas of cat pillows, art supplies, and scented stickers.

Sure, I could have worked with Santa to pull off an additional Christmas surprise, a larger gift for them to enjoy, but I just didn’t feel like creating a want that wasn’t there. It reminded me of a conversation I had with a young child years ago, before I had children of my own.

“Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?” I asked him.

“Yes! I did! I even got things I didn’t KNOW I wanted!” he responded.

The child was excited and adorable, but I’ve held on to this line for years now. This is what parents do. We let our children know what they should want. We put the ideas in their heads for things they should ask for, things they might enjoy. (Most of the time, their actual wants are quite simple.) Then, we take pictures of the Santa spread to show everyone online what we were able to do for our children. I have done it, too.

But not this year.

This year, with the exception of a few, small surprises, Evan and Delaney received exactly what they asked for. And this year, coming downstairs to see what Santa brought was not the highlight of Christmas. The true magic appeared in all of the little moments that followed.

Since Christmas morning, they have played together with every gift they received. Evan has helped Delaney create beaded necklaces and decoupage, and Delaney has worked with Evan on Lego projects and complex art designs.

And of course, they have spent hours and hours with their smelly markers. Some nights we have to take the markers away from them and force them to go to bed. Then, we check on them an hour later and find them asleep with a couple markers under their pillows and blue and orange streaks below their noses. We are starting to think they may have a marker problem.

This was truly one of our favorite Christmases, and the best part has been watching an incredible bond develop between my children. They really are best friends. They want to be together constantly (remember the pic of them in the dentist’s chair??), and they make cards and gifts for each other when they have to be apart.

Sure, they have their moments of friction like most siblings do. Just this morning, Delaney pushed Evan out of bed while the three of us were snuggling.

“Laney! Why would you do that?” I fussed.

“I just wanted more room. I’m sorry.”

In true Evan spirit, he forgave his sister, and ten minutes later they were playing with their markers again. It doesn’t matter what toys they have, as long as they get to play with them together.

The best things in life really are free, or easily purchased at 5 Below. I’m glad Santa listened to my kids’ request this year. I’m glad I did, too.

 

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Becoming a Redskins Fan

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by Melissa Face (published at http://www.sasee.com December 2018)

I read an article years ago about how important it is to appreciate gifts from children, especially those that are handmade. Children want to give, but they have neither the money nor the transportation to shop at a store. So, they make things for the people they care about. It is one of the purest expressions of love that exists.

My children are no exception. They draw, cut, color and paste items from around the house, sometimes items that already belong to me. They present these items to us on holidays with so much pride their faces literally glow.

Last July, my two kids handed me a gift bag on my birthday. I watched them nearly burst as I pulled out dozens of creations they made from napkins: hearts covered in stickers, cards with fringed edges, and cut-outs of our entire family. I told them that I loved everything they made, and that I truly appreciated the thought and hard work that they put into their gifts.

Now that my older child, Evan, is in elementary school, he has the opportunity to buy Christmas gifts through his school’s Secret Santa Shop. Last December, we sent twenty dollars to school for him to shop for: his sister, grandparents, father, and me. He came home that day, told us he had bought wonderful gifts, and then went to his room to wrap them so they could go under the tree.

A few weeks before Christmas, my husband, Craig, and my son were watching a Steelers game. My husband has been a Steelers fan all his life. And though I really don’t give a hoot about football, I mimic his enthusiasm to keep things fun.

Throughout the game, Evan kept asking my husband questions about the Washington Redskins.

“Do you like the Redskins?” Evan asked him.

“No. Not really,” my husband answered. “They have never been a team that I follow.”

“Well, what would be your second favorite team?” Evan inquired.

“I guess if I had to pick a second favorite, I would say the Patriots, since I’m from New England.”

“Oh. Okay. What is your third favorite team?”

“I’m not really sure, Buddy. I’ve never thought about a third favorite team before. Maybe the Broncos.”

“Okay,” Evan responded.

Evan and his dad continued watching the Steelers game. Craig noticed that Evan had become quieter and appeared to be deep in thought.

Evan said, “I think my second favorite team is the Redskins.”

“That’s fine,” Craig told him. “You can like any team you want.”

“Washington is pretty close by, Dad,” Evan rationalized. “We could easily go to one of their games.”

“You’re right, Buddy. We sure could,” Craig agreed.

A while later, the Steelers game had wrapped up and Craig and Evan were throwing the football in the playroom. Evan blurted out, “Dad! I think I really messed up!”

“What’s wrong, Buddy? What do you mean?”

“All my school had for football gifts was Redskins stuff. So, I had to buy you a Redskins present for Christmas.”

My husband’s heart sank. He searched for words to console Evan. He told him that the Redskins were a great team and that they would make plans to go see them play one day.

Evan seemed satisfied, but Craig felt miserable. There is not much worse than seeing your child disappointed.

In the days leading up to Christmas, my husband and I made an effort to mention the Redskins in casual conversation. We talked about their record, how my great-grandfather was a faithful fan, and Evan and Craig looked online at player profiles. We did everything we could to make Evan feel better about his purchase.

On Christmas morning, the kids opened their gifts from Santa, enjoyed their stockings, and played with new toys. Then, Evan jumped up and yelled, “It’s my turn to hand out gifts!” He went to the tree and grabbed his presents and passed them out.

The first gift he handed out was for his dad. Craig opened the square box and pulled out a Redskins bracelet.

“Do you like it?” Evan asked.

“I love it,” Craig responded, as he slid it onto his wrist. “And it fits me perfectly.”

The rest of Evan’s gifts were also a hit, and our entire Christmas morning was one of the best we have ever had as a family.

Months have passed since Craig received his Redskins bracelet and became the team’s newest fan. He still wears it every single day.

And when the day comes that it breaks and can no longer be worn, we will retire it to my desk drawer, where it will reside alongside our other treasures: handmade cards, napkin creations, and coloring sheets. It will be in good company, among the best gifts a parent could ever receive.

Lesson from a Student

 

 

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by Melissa Face

 

Each December, my senior English students read “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens. In addition to lessons on British tradition, I also try to incorporate something a bit more modern, to illustrate the relevance of the values and morals that Dickens included in his novella.

Earlier this fall, I found an article about a woman who went an entire year without spending. She paid her bills, then said goodbye to everything that wasn’t essential. Her efforts resulted in a savings of $23,000 at the end of the year.

My students and I discussed her accomplishment and whether or not we might consider taking on a similar, perhaps shorter, challenge in the future. They agreed that they could likely do without many of their purchases, but at first it might be a difficult adjustment.

Then I heard some murmuring among students in the back of the room.

“What is it? Please, tell me what’s on your mind,” I encouraged.

One of my seniors spoke up. “Okay, that’s great that she saved $23,000, but what did she DO with it?” Erickah asked. “I mean, did she feed the homeless? Give it to charity? The article would be much more compelling if she had made a real contribution with what she saved.”

I was caught off guard and had to pause a few moments before responding.

“I agree with you completely,” I told Erickah.

Without realizing it, my student had given me great advice, a wonderful plan to begin a new calendar year.

When I went home that evening, I told my husband about our class discussion and my modified plan. “I want to go on a six-month spending strike,” I told him. “Anything that isn’t essential will have to wait, and everything left over after paying bills will go to charity.”

Our family of four loves going out to eat and shopping at our favorite retail stores. We also really enjoy weekend getaways, so we knew that cutting out overnight trips would sting a bit as well. But we also knew we could put these simple pleasures on hold if we had a really good reason for doing so.

My husband was on board. He liked the idea of us getting back to basics for a while. And even though we intended to proceed with our plan regardless, we decided to ask our older child’s opinion before we got started.

We presented the idea to Evan and Delaney that night after dinner. Evan listened intently and when we asked what he thought, he responded, “Well, sure! I already have a great life!” His enthusiasm provided even more reassurance that my husband and I were doing the right thing.

On January 1, we put our plan into action with a few modifications to the no spending rule:

  1. We could go out to eat only if we had a coupon or gift card. We had saved gift cards we received for Christmas and those we earned from credit card rewards. We planned to use them for special occasions.
  2. There would be no charging unless we had a medical emergency or a necessary car repair.
  3. We would not purchase any new items unless they were presents for someone else. We felt this exception was appropriate in the event our children were invited to a birthday party.
  4. When we needed something, we would shop at a local thrift store.

 

The early weeks of our new lifestyle were very easy. We had a couple of significant snow storms, and we had no choice but to stay home and just enjoy being together. Plus, the children were still overwhelmed with their Christmas gifts, so there was no mention of getting anything new.

A few weeks later, Evan’s rec league basketball season began, and after his first game, my husband and I realized that Evan would need better shoes. So, off to the thrift stores we went. We were only at our second shop when my husband spotted a pair of gray and black Shaq shoes. Aside from the worn laces, they looked great. Evan tried them on and they were a perfect fit. Plus, they were only three dollars, and we knew we had some better laces at home to use in them.

Our kids took to thrift shopping right away. They saw it as a grand treasure hunt and loved that each thrift store had completely different items than the one before. We returned to thrift stores as other needs came up, and we used thrift shopping as a reward for good grades and behavior.

My husband and I noticed that our plan was also forcing us to connect more as a couple. We were talking about our money when it came in, and we were discussing all of our expenses, something we had struggled with in the past. We were talking deeply about what was important to us in terms of spending and saving, and we were making long-term goals that we planned to work towards once our 6-month stretch was complete.

We aren’t even at the halfway point yet, and so far, we have found our new lifestyle to be incredibly rewarding. We spend a lot of time together as a family: checking out books from the library, making crafts, cooking meals at home, and playing with toys that the kids forgot they had.

My husband and I talk more in the evenings and we are also enjoying the simple pleasures of reading a good book or watching a classic movie. We recently decided to continue our plan for an entire year instead of only six months. We had hoped to make a difference with our charitable contribution, but we had not planned on this experience improving our own lives as much as it has.

I’m grateful my family was receptive to this change, and I’m thankful that my student, Erickah, shared her comment that day in my English 12 class.  I always look forward to teaching this unit on Dickens, but this year I was taught the real lesson on giving. I hope that we are able to give back as much as we have received.

Weathering the Storm

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by Melissa Face

I keep having the same nightmare: I’m outside in the middle of a severe storm, and I can’t find Delaney. I call to her, eventually see her, but am unable to catch her. She reaches out to me, and each time I get closer, the wind takes her a little farther away and beyond my grasp.

I realize that these types of dreams are likely a manifestation of my high anxiety, a problem that I’m dealing with that is more challenging than I ever imagined and not at all unrelated to being Delaney’s mother. But I also think that this dream is a reminder of the incredible force of nature that my Delaney is: strong, unpredictable, and turbulent.

Returning to full-time work was a huge concern for me this year because it meant that Delaney would need a full-time preschool situation. I feared her unruliness and defiance at home would carry over into the classroom. I worried about her saying inappropriate words and showing off her vast knowledge of potty humor. I worried about her refusing to wear her uniform. I worried about her back talking her teacher. I worried about  getting a call from the school during the first week saying, “Mrs. Face, it seems that our school is not a good fit for your daughter. We would rather our students not refer to each other as ‘fart butts.’ We wish you both the best in pursuing other educational opportunities. Please come get her.”

I kept telling myself that if we could just survive this year, then she would be entering kindergarten and the law would REQUIRE that she attend school. Public schools would HAVE to take her, and I would be able to keep my job.

Delaney has been in school for almost nine weeks. So far, there has been no call.

She really hasn’t had any negative reports, either, aside from one day of being on yellow for splashing water in the bathroom. She didn’t defend her demerit, but instead said, “I’m disappointed in myself. I knew that it was bad, and I did it anyway.” She has avoided being on yellow ever since.

The night before she began school, I read her The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. It’s a story about a little racoon who is nervous about being away from his mama when he attends school for the first time. Mama racoon kisses her child’s palm, then places it to his face. She explains that when he goes to school, he can touch his palm to his cheek and feel his mother’s love.

After we finished reading the book, I kissed Delaney’s palm and told her to hold it to her face if she missed me and needed to feel my love. “I will,” she promised.

On the way to school a few days ago, Delaney told me to turn the music down. We were listening to “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” by Wham!. She wants to hear it every morning, and if we catch a few stoplights on Washington Street, we can hear it a full three times from our house to her school. Yay!

“Turn it down, please,” she repeated. “I need to tell you something.”

“Okay,” I said. “What’s up?”

“You know how you gave me the kissing hand when I started school?”

“Yes. I remember.”

“Well, I still have it. But I don’t really need it right now.”

“Why is that?”

“Because school is not new anymore.”

It took me a few minutes to absorb her comment. She was telling me, in her way, that she had adjusted to her situation, and I didn’t need to worry about her.

The neat thing about parenting, though, is that there is always something to worry about. We don’t run out of opportunities to worry. We worry about our kids when they need us, and we worry about the day when they think they don’t.

I’m happy and relieved with Delaney’s adjustment to full-time school. My little force has new friends, a regular routine, and wonderful teachers. I think this is where my dream comes in, though. Delaney is establishing herself outside of her home and slowly slipping away from me. It is something to celebrate and at the same time, something to lament. She will never be fully mine again. From now on, she will be influenced by her teachers and peers in addition to her father and me, and eventually, more so.

I can’t help but worry about how hard this world is for females and that I am raising a daughter in what is still, in many ways, a man’s world. Then, Delaney talks, and I hear a little of myself come out. And I know. She will be able to stand up for herself and speak her mind. She’s made of the tough stuff. She is my kid, and she’s equipped to weather the storms. She is going to be okay. We both are.