When my children were in elementary school, they had a great many wonderful teachers whom I still think of fondly. One of my (and their) favourites was Mrs. Sinclair. A bit of an artist, she was also kind, passionate and completely devoted to her students. So many parents have no idea just how much teachers go above and beyond the call of duty. One of Mrs. Sinclair’s ‘above and beyond’ activities was after-school drama. For months at a time, she cajoled, moulded and directed a loud, boisterous group of pre-pubescent grade 5/6 kids until somehow, a perfectly-formed play emerged and was presented at the end of each year. While my son (my eldest) was in her class, I unwittingly became her barometer for how good the play was. If I was crying, it was a hit. If I was sobbing pretty much the whole time, it was Oscar worthy. She would watch for me in the audience – sitting holding my best friend’s hand as we both cried unashamedly throughout the entire performance. My tears never seemed to bother my son much – it was just a part of the whole ‘play’ experience.
And then two years later, along came my daughter. “Mom, don’t you DARE embarrass me by crying during my play!” she warned me before the first play she acted in under Mrs. Sinclair’s tutelage. It was hard, but I managed to keep my eyes from leaking during the performance (I admit that they got a little damp: there are limits to a mother’s self control). I got through the whole thing, right up to the standing ovation of all the proud parents in attendance, when I saw Mrs. Sinclair scurrying over, a worried look on her face. “Was the play okay?” she asked me, with a look of consternation. ”It was AMAZING! It was WONDERFUL!” I gushed, surprised that she even needed to ask.
“But…” she stammered, “You didn’t cry. Not once. There must have been SOMETHING wrong.” I burst out laughing and explained my daughters’ pre-play instructions. As a little girl, it was always like that: her brother was always going to be the star of the play and she was always going to be ‘Soldier # 3’. And she wanted it that way. No making a scene; no standing out; no being noticed.
What is rather funny is that despite trying really hard to be invisible all those years ago, she is anything but. She is an animal-rights activist. She decided to become a vegetarian when she could no longer look at the food she was eating and reconcile that with what it took to get that food to her table. Years ago, when she was just a teenager, she made me promise never, never, never to eat foie gras after she learned what geese went through to become foie gras (it is a promise I have kept). She was volunteering at the SPCA when she was 13 years old. She has traveled all over the world; sometimes with a friend; often alone. She speaks her mind. Always. And while I know she is capable of impeccable manners, she talks more like a soldier during times of war than a well-bred young lady. She has taught me the most colourful words – in French and in English – for parts of her anatomy that I was careful to teach properly when she was a little girl. While she has occasionally been forced (kicking and screaming) into a dress she prefers jeans, tank tops and sneakers. I would be willing to bet that she hasn’t spent much more than 5$, all told, on make-up in her entire life (a bit like her Mama about that). She is a dog whisperer – she has never met a dog who is not absolutely devoted to her. She is a qualified lifeguard and an accomplished scuba diver. And she is kind: when I stopped, a few years back, to help a lady whose wheel had fallen off the car, my daughter was out of the car and on her way to help before I had put my own car in ‘park’.
Despite being one of the most interesting people I know, my daughter has never liked making a big thing about her accomplishments. Which is why I rarely write about her. She has made it so clear that she doesn’t WANT me to. She is very, very private. She hates social media. When we Skyped the other day, she laughingly called me a ‘Feminazi’ because lately, I can’t keep seem to keep my political opinions to myself when I am on Facebook. “You don’t have to tell the ENTIRE WORLD what you are thinking, Mom,” she said to me, rolling her eyes in mock exasperation. “And for the record, NO ONE on Facebook wants to be ‘friends’ with that ONE annoying person who posts like, 50 times a day.” Predictably, she wrote to me a few minutes after we ended our 2+ hour Skype chat, worried that she had gone too far.
Life, especially with her Mom, is always about balancing her over-the-top personality with the soft, vulnerable, kind and loving interior that she is careful to keep hidden from the rest of the world at all times. Because that is her biggest secret: just like the Step-Father she so resembles, she presents to the world as a T-Rex, when anyone who knows and loves her is well aware that underneath, she is really just a Teddy Bear.
But shhhh…don’t tell anyone I said so…
Patti Moore Wilson/© wednesdayschildca.wordpress.com