I wasn't born to be much of anything, for that matter, I think it rather surprised everyone when I became something.
Something other than a fuck-up.
(yeah, maybe i'm still working on it.)
With my lineage, the mother part was probably more expected than anything. Unless you count "resident of a correctional facility" as an expectation. Didn't Get Pregnant in High School was my most touted superlative prior to being voted Most Free Spirited in the closing days of my senior year.
It's a damn shame that I look so young now; frequently when my daughter and I are together people speculate that I was a young teenage mother.
Assumptions piss me off; I worked really fucking hard to not get knocked up as a moppet.
So what if she's good bit taller and already looks closer to grown-up than she should. One of us needs cookies to survive, so what if it's me. So what if she's more refined and demure and doesn't break into song in the middle of the grocery store like I do. One of us has to go on a rant about the necessity of late-night rule-breaking at Hogwarts; so what if it was me. So what if I never sleep and listen to music too loud while I drive; so what if I get into emoji arguments on the internet. One of us has to check the mail and keep an inventory of the food and monitor gasoline levels, so what if it's her. So what if she always has clean socks. So what if she knows when to go to bed and eats healthy meals.
I ate yesterday.
Slept then too.
I definitely drank.
The greatest misinterpretation of my lust for life is presumption that I am immature, or even worse, incapable.
I suppose I can accept "immature." The regularly visible wizard robes don't exactly lend themselves any sort of gravitas. Singing questions to the surprisingly startled customer service industry workers isn't quite the cultivated behavior expected by the fourth decade. The Harry Potter tattoos aren't exactly screaming of a developed opinion in any steady-income-providing area of expertise.
I could easily see how one could surmise that my behavior is adolescent; perhaps even saving hurt feelings by offering a kind comment on my "youthful spirit."
Despite a lack of insight into all of the years I struggled to remain carefree while drowning under cancer treatment, a snap judgement of my ability to connect to my now-teenage daughter obviously qualifies you to determine what kind of parent I must be.
So what, you think I'm immature.
I'm ok with that.
Fuck you if you think I'm incapable.
Nonconformity is not the enemy.
Laughter is not a battle cry.
As a fledgling my daughter was a wonder of joyful delight. She was well-spoken and adorable, just as smart as all could be; she would sit, barely age three, at the counter to greet customers as they entered the sewing shop where we spent our days. Just a wisp of a thing, usually singing along to the pop hits on the radio mounted to the wall, the notebook perched in front of her covered with various notations of sheer brilliance undecodable to anyone else's eyes. She would intensely welcome any new interlopers and demand to know their business in the kingdom she ruled; pen poised to scribble at a moment's notice if needed.
Customers would chuckle, and state their purposes with a patronizing tone, mistaking her glare at their condescension for a furrowed brow deep in concentration. She'd look over at me with a sigh and walk the hem-seeker to a dressing room at a pace she thought they could follow. She would use manners and make people smile, she waited on nearly every person to come in for tailoring services. In her down time, when she wasn't busy visiting the barber and the baker, she wrote letters to her favorite musicians and drew pictures for the mail man.
What an asshole.
Once school began, the daughter became as fascinated with the quest for knowledge as I had always been. Everything was questioned. Nosy little shit. Learning was another grand adventure to the monkey. We lived in a different neck of the woods than where I had originally hailed from, but her dad's hometown was where we settled for the start of her journey to master everything. The early years of my kid attending elementary school in a small town that focused so much attention on individual students made the benefits of living there greatly outweigh the prejudice and bigotry (during school hours.)
Life for her was structured around whether the day needed gym shoes or a paint shirt, godamn it; not whether or not your pap worked at Armstrong or Woolrich.
One explanation of why I could never fit in around that secluded corner of the county: I didn't have a Pap. I was basically the walking embodiment of someone who didn't like the chicken wings at the Hotel. Because I didn't like the wings at the Hotel. I din't like them at the Linger, Legion, or Copperhead either. I liked them at Happy Acres.
My heart was still three valleys and another creek away.
As death and disease tend to bring, change came when my brother died and I was diagnosed with cooter cancer. After a pretty relaxed (and not in any way disruptive, disastrous, or detrimental, and I'm completely lying) period of mourning for the loss of a close part of my life, I needed to relocate to a larger city with more options for cleansing the corruption of my uterus, such as it was.
I dedicated most of my energy and all of my spirit on the fight to get through treatment. It was not an easy stretch of time on anyone near me; panic and depletion, exhaustion and sickness, aggressive abandonment of hope. I tried all that I could to distance my kid from the soul-sucking leach that cancer disguised itself as to no avail; she refused to remain in residence at a place where I was not. Not long after I signed a lease in glorious West Philadelphia, the daughter unpacked her things and called the tiny apartment her new home.
I've pondered a few times on how different it must have been on her innocent mind to go from a rural house with a half-acre backyard to a third floor two-bedroom with two windows. It didn't bother me as much because I was entirely dead inside by then. Chemotherapy had long since destroyed any sense of existence that would long for a connection to the outside world. I am certain my daughter felt some reprieve from the bleakness when her father decided to try his own version of outer-city life on for size as well. Even so, she would go on to finish her primary education in the nicest urban neighborhood I could afford.
Eventually, I slowly started to climb the recovery rope and was able to start working again. The contractual ladder of learning my new trade hoisted me further along and I was able to procure a relocation to the near-suburbs just as the kid landed on the brink of middle school.
Not that she didn't absolutely love school in the city,
it was just... different... for her.
Hint: She's fairly light -skinned. And she's not wearing tank top.
I guess I could have moved back to the middle of the mountains at that point, but there's no fucking way that I would move back to the middle of the mountains, so that was out of the question. I had seen more of the world, and I had not given up hope.
So as close to the suburbs as my union paycheck would allow me to creep I went. And the daughter landed her flute-playing self in a middle school with a band program.
I worked every shift I could to support us, and I pushed her. She studied and she played, and I worked and I pushed her. Her dad helped. By the end of middle school, she was devoted to the flute and her music and kept near-perfect grades and she wanted her eyebrow pierced.
So what if she has an eyebrow ring.
Freshman year she joined marching band, which was an astonishing act of commitment for my timid girl; and then she added jazz band, orchestra, and color guard by the end of the year. Sophomore year, she also played in concert band and symphonic winds and she asked if my tattoo artist would ink a small music note upon her wrist. If she finished the school year with a 3.85 or better GPA, I replied.
So what if she has a little tattoo.
Or ten by now.
At least I know it's quality work.
I pay for it.
Fuck you if you think I'm incapable.
My daughter will make your life better just by being a part of it.
She is fair in a way that a closed mind will never be. She is compassionate for things I could never understand. She is intelligent and resourceful; she is courteous and helpful; she is caring and she is beautiful music.
So what if I'm unconventional and talk about titty pics with a high school daughter. So what if my kid knows my opinion on both big black cock and the merits of anal on a Thursday afternoon. So what if cooking dinner after working third shift means having a 9 a.m. beer while you and your daughter make pizza.
Tattoos, so what.
Write on the walls, so what.
Cursing girlfriends, so what.
Jean jackets, so what.
So what if a 17-year-old senior takes off from high school early on a Friday in May to have burritos at the bar and hear her mother talk about how her work night consisted of a full hazmat response that was caused by vibrating boxes of dildos getting loaded into tractor trailers. Again.
So what if I've told a few stories about my past, and all of the glorious mistakes that go with it. So what if my daughter chimes in with the "because you were poor" when I talk about holidays. So what if we remember things together, and experience things differently. So what if I speak to her like she's a human being who society will soon expect to make, and answer for, her own decisions.
One of us has to be willing to talk about how we got here, and where to go next.
And what to do when you fuck that part up.
So what if it's both of us.
Just because we're different doesn't mean we're not perfect.