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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

What does bucolic mean?

Aha! There is still something I know that my brainy college graduate doesn't. I honestly had no idea that could be possible. "What does bucolic mean?" she asked, and before I answered I did a little dance. You'd think I'd be mortified. All those dollars, four years at a prestigious institution of higher learning. And she has to ask what bucolic means? But I know that she knows all the things that count in her world. Things I can not even begin to list, much less comprehend. Stuff about proteins and protons and neurons and the nature of natural life. So I can't begrudge her a little word, but I can feel smug for a split second, perhaps for the very last time in my life. She's graduated from college. The toddler with chubby thighs (okay,I'm sorry, but they were very cute) who could not go from one room to the next without Betty and Betsy. "Betty and Betsy are here." "Betty and Betsy are coming too." She was a slugger on the Little League team and threw a mean pitch right over the plate in softball. Her basketball shot was so sweet a former pro player told her so. She was always polite to Fergie, the elevator man, as she got lost in the legs of a car full of neighbors who rode with us to the 10th floor and beyond. She once said, "thank you, mommy" at the end of the eucharist at worship and the whole room smiled. "We go outside NOW." It wasn't a request or a demand, it was simply the way things would go, of course. Somedays, when I was in a hurry and she wasn't, she made me crazy by stepping up on the stoop of every doorway we passed all the way down Dearborn Street, past the bookstore, the pharmacy, the deli, the doctor's office, and Moonraker, the restaurant. Up down up down up down. She knew that sometimes I went to meetings at the "cinnamon office." And we went together on Thursdays to picket the South African Consulate. "Free Mandela! Free Mandela!" She played Barbies and once had her doll winning the Miss America pageant by singing "Here Comes Stephen Biko" for the talent competition. Kaia and Jenna. The day of the flood. Seventeen inches of rain fell in a matter of hours. The Johnson's basement filled with water. We adopted Jenna for the day and for the few years after, and her family adopted Kaia back. Roller-blading, biking, Girl Scouts, basketball. And the science fair. The girls were back-to-back winners, two years in a row in the local junior college science fair. I wonder if Jenna still has her plaques too? Camp, movies, and lots of just goofing around. Being kids. All the books. From Teddy Bear's Picnic to Goosebumps and Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Mr. Popper's Penguins. From those days to this, thousands and thousands of books. Battle of the Books. The big trophy. P.I.Plus and piano recitals. Soccer, so much soccer, World Cup Soccer. The baseball caps, the pink glasses, the "we go swing and slide" all mix together. It's been one hell of a ride! It was a great time, for me, and I think for her. A growing sense of the world, from Estonia to South Africa to Darwin's workshop, the Galapagos Islands. Issues of fairness and kindness expanded to take on political qualities, of justice and equal rights, human rights, dignity, freedom. From creek walks and measuring alkaline (or something, I have no idea!) in the water to the sophisticated chemistry she does now. From the first plastic toy doctor kit to the real tools she'll take up soon in a hospital ER. She still won't actually be treating the patients but she'll be a lot closer than she was back in the day when Betty and Betsy got plastered with band-aids. Yep, this little girl who I still picture on the fuzzy carpet learning to roll over walked down a grassy aisle on Saturday looking confident and sassy, proud as all get out, claiming her well-earned college diploma. People said after her baptism 22 years ago that it was a four-hanky service. I was worried about this. But the tissues stayed in my pocket. I sniffled a bit but was too happy to cry. It was too much fun! And the setting, well, it was so lovely, idyllic, the green green grass, the canopy of leafy oaks, ivy-covered walls, clear blue sky. Truly, a bucolic setting.

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