Wednesday evening …
I’m stuck late at work. Which, given the circumstances, is really, really not helpful.
Katie needs her Mama. It’s been a rough few days and I haven’t been around enough.
Some narrow minded idiot A kid in school called her weird. Not exactly a shock that the social dynamics of middle school are proving to be tricky to navigate, but here we are. Last night at bedtime, she asked the $64,000 question.
“Mama, do you think I’m normal?”
I looked at my beautiful girl. My girl who is miles ahead of normal. My angel, my hero, my teacher, my daughter who is so much more than normal could ever hope to be. My theoretically typical kid who really, thank God, is anything but. My sweet, innocent, hurting girl who wants nothing more than to feel whatever she thinks normal feels like.
I stroked her hair. “Baby,” I said, “normal isn’t real. You’re just like the other kids in so many ways, but so too, you’re you. And all that YOU are is lot more than normal.”
I let her cry. I kissed her face and smoothed her hair. I promised her that tomorrow I’d pick her up after work and we’d talk some more.
Tomorrow is now today and I’m stuck. I’ve called to tell her that I’ll be there as soon as I can. That come Hell or High Water, she and I will make our way to the coffee shop. Because I have some things to tell her.
I’ve got to tell her that normal sucks and kids who call other kids weird can kiss her ass. That boys who call girls weird sometimes do so for reasons that defy all logic. That in three years when he asks her to the dance it’ll all make sense. I have to tell her that I love her. That even if she weren’t my kid – if heaven forbid we weren’t related, I’d still want to be her friend. That somehow, some way, I’d find my way into her life. Because her light and her spirit, her creativity and her generosity well, they make normal look pretty damn lame.
That normal sucks and kids who call her weird can kiss her ass.
I will pick her up. We will have coffee. We will talk. On the way home I’ll say it all, every bit of it, nearly word for word. But first, she has something she wants to talk about. I’m all ears.
“Mama, I’m not sure how you’ll feel about this,” she says.
“Hmm, well, hit me,” I say. “Let’s see.”
“I just .. Well, maybe I’ll just wait til you get home. This is awkward.”
“Oh, OK. Is it going to be less awkward if we’re face to face?”
“Oh. Maybe not.”
“Honey, I won’t judge it, truly. No matter what it is. So why don’t we just rip the band-aid off instead of letting it hang over our heads until I can get home.”
“OK. It’s just … well … “
She trails off.
“Go ahead, babe.”
“I want to have a bake sale to raise money to buy something for someone.”
“I just ..”
I skip the “Oh for the love of all things holy” and simply say, “Honey, just say it.”
“OK,” she says, “I really want to have a bake sale to raise money to buy Tucker a keyboard.”
I’m quiet. I have no choice. I’m at work.
“Mama? Are you there?” she asks. Her voice is tight. She’s worried.
“I’m here, baby. I’m just trying not to cry.”
“Oh no. Why?”
“I’m just so proud of you, Katie. You’re an incredible kid.”
“So it’s OK?”
“Well, I’ll talk to Jeni about it.”
I pause for a minute, trying to take this in.
“Baby,” I ask, “how would you know that Tucker would want a keyboard?”
“Cause you told me that he likes music. And if he’s stuck in bed, well, I thought he’d enjoy it.”
I’m trying to keep up. When did I mention that he likes music? Oh yeah, that one time when I showed her the pictures on Luck2Tuck and she asked if they do anything fun at the hospital and I told her that he’d gotten to jam with one of the guys from Coldplay and how that meant the most to him because he loves music so much.
She wants to hold a bake sale to buy a keyboard for a kid she’s never met.
This is MY kid.
How did I get this lucky?
How did I get so blessed?
She’s still talking.
She’s eleven; she’s always talking.
“So I was thinking of asking Principal E if I could have the sale outside the school at dismissal time. Cause obviously we’d get the most people that way. And maybe … um, Mama, what do I call Tuck’s mom?”
“Mrs Gowen, sweetie. Unless she invites you otherwise; you call her Mrs Gowen.”
“Ok, so could we maybe ask Mrs Gowen if we could get some Luck2Tuck bracelets to sell at the sale? Cause I think that would be great. I mean, people would not only buy them to help pay for the keyboard, but then they’d be wearing them too.”
“Sweetie?” I begin, “why did you think I wouldn’t be OK with this?”
“Well, I don’t know. Confidentiality and stuff. I didn’t know if everyone knew he had Leukemia.”
THIS kid wants to be NORMAL?
What a shame that would be.
I slow her down just enough to explain why we need to check with Jeni before jumping in. I tell her that it’s important to ask what Tuck might really NEED before plunging headlong into getting something that we may WANT to give him. And then she does it again.
“Mama, we can’t give him the thing that he needs.”
Breathe, Jess, breathe.
“So I’d really like to give him something that will make him HAPPY.”
I promise her that I’ll write it all up and send it to Jeni. That I’ll ask her if Tuck has a keyboard.
I tell her that I’ll be home as soon as I can.
I hang up the phone.
I do what I need to do and I head home. I arrive late, but I grab her anyway. So dinner will be late tonight. It is what it is. I have some things I have to tell her.
I’ve got to tell her that normal sucks and kids who call other kids weird can kiss her ass. That boys who call girls weird sometimes do so for reasons that defy all logic. That in three years when he asks her to the dance it’ll all make sense.
I have to tell her that I love her. That even if she weren’t my kid – if heaven forbid we weren’t related, I’d still want to be her friend. That somehow, some way, I’d find my way into her life. Because her light and her spirit, her creativity and her generosity – well, they make normal look pretty damn lame.
That she can’t even see normal from where she’s sitting.