Tuesday, October 20, 2009


(Self) Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl, 1976.

When I was little my family called me Crazy Girl. Which is not so different than now except back then there was no underlying uh oh of the actual, a prescription for anxiety meds in my name. Back then Crazy Girl was just one striped sock short of an all calico ensemble--this was the days of prime time Little House on the Prairie, mind you, and I've always been partial to bonnets. And so I wore polka dotted scarves over a red velour top (my favorite), rainbow sneakers with alligator shoelaces, dolphin shorts, tube tops without any actual boobs to squash beneath said toob, skirts over skirts to make them twirl, boots, sandals, plaids, floral, ditsy, shawls with pom poms, my very small and short life trimmed in rick rack, and all on a Tuesday just because. THERE'S NO BUSINESS LIKE SHOW BUSINESS LIKE NO BUSINESS I KNOW! This was before The Great School Plays of '81 through '85 when I was quite unceremoniously cast as Extra #Nothing, back when I was still certain of my stardom and out-Ethel Merman'ed Ethel Merman, throwing my arms in the air as if I just didn't care because I didn't, pitch perfect mezzo-soprano something or other on a seven year old girl who knew all the words and made up the rest. I cut my own bangs. Pattern check! My mom would call each morning to see just what she was sending to school. I loved to bake from scratch but believed in the fiber of eggshells.

At some point--I don't know when--I grew up. Or out of it. Perhaps it was standing in the way back row of the chorus in Annie Get Your Gun when I realized that no matter how high up I threw my arms the audience still wouldn't see me, that stripes and plaids simply don't match in a world loud with so many people. And so I stopped wearing velour, bonnets, and when I finally did get boobs I pulled a too-large shirt out with my fingers at the hem so that no one would see and hunched my shoulders but not too much because I had read Deenie. I mean, god! Can you imagine? A tube top? Gross! I baked cakes from Duncan Hines.

(And then came the years when I tried to reclaim the pattern, my early 20's with the pleather pants and platform shoes and the pleather pants. Oh god, did I mention the pleather pants? Life's too short to wear white socks! I once not-so-famously was never quoted as saying, only I still matched striped sock to striped sock, and a few years later came the anxiety meds.)

As I write this I am wearing jeans and a grey turtleneck sweater. Black bra, undies, inexplicable green socks but only because I am wearing boots and you cannot see them and I slept in them--the socks--and I am lazy. Cute sweater, a girl at the grocery store told me this morning, and it is cute, if you like grey. And I do because why not? Why wouldn't I? Who doesn't like grey after all?

She doesn't, that's who. Zoey. She doesn't like grey, or matching. She doesn't like her pale pink shirt, only the fuschia one; she likes headbands and wings, the color yellow, fairy dust, Chapstick, masks, tails, clickety clack shoes and her Shrinky Dink necklace. She doesn't get why she can't wear her heart pajamas over her pants to school. She really doesn't like being shushed.
It is very hard not to think that is me sitting there wearing leopard ears, not to think everything about her is just me some very odd years later. She has my cheeks, I know, my lips, my movements; I watch her as if staring at a mirror sometimes which is stupid, dangerous, a luxury of ego, a missed blink and everything, can't stop--but she is so pretty! And fast (so fast). Because while she is my daughter, my girl, she is her own crazy, strawberry glasses, cowgirl boots and a pink balloon. And it is my job now to simply watch her without the glare of my own glass reflection that is not there as she either sings and holds on, or lets go.


my favorite and my best said...

this all rings so very very familiar.
each and every day you blow me away.
thanks for that.

Cindy said...

As a girly-girl mom of 2 boys, I wish I had a daughter. I'm also glad that I don't.


Kendra plus 2 said...

My daughter, Payton, and Zoey would be BFF's forever.

Drew said...

Awwwww. Cherish these moments before your girl ends up in drug rehab just like mine did. Not trying to scare you, but keep a close eye on her friends.

krista said...

you're killing me, susannah. seriously.
man, i used to love dolphin shorts.

Meghan M said...

You're not wearing the gray sweater from your September 29th post... are you?
Though, more power to you if you are!

3StinkyBoysAndMe said...

Zoey's picture is THE best! That's the one you break out at her rehearsal dinner in 20 something years. What a fun little girl.

Michelle M in KY said...

Alligator shoelaces...that sure brought back a lot of 80's memories. I LOVED the title today...it suited me. I loved the content even more. I am always encouraging my children to be "true" to themselves. Wear what you want, sing as loud as you want...all of it...be YOU...not my perception of you or what others "think" you should be. I ADORE the photo of Zoey being true to herself. Allow her to enjoy it before she grows out of it...or follows the status quo. I'm with you Mother...I am right here in the trenches with you! I so enjoy reading you everyday...thanks for being you, green socks and all!

Petunia Face said...

Oh Meghan, good lord no, I'm not wearing that sweater! (perhaps worse, though--the sweater I am wearing is from Sundance, a mom store if ever there was one).

Thank you all for your comments.
Stay strange,

Sschraed said...

Perfectly written..we have to watch and let them become who they are meant to be which is sometimes hard. Love her pic..she is too adorable for words.

Cathi said...

What a wonderful post....that reminds me and all of my crazy outfits thru the years, and watching my daughter go thru the same thing...very poignant! Thanks for letting us all take a peek at life thru your eyes!