суббота, 3 ноября 2012 г.

Whatever You Want To Be

By Caitlin Q. Bailey O'Neill

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you land among the stars.
~Les Brown

My legs swing excitedly, the momentum enough to propel my body off the seat as my pink sneakers scuff the tile floor beneath me. My toothless grin stretches from ear to ear as she places a book that weighs more than I do on the table in front of me. My chubby fingers can't flip the pages quickly enough. My imagination is running wild, creating new tales and carrying me to faraway places faster than I can process.
I am six years old on an early autumn afternoon, sitting at the pattern table at Jo-Ann Fabrics.

Halloween was an event in our house — an event that began well before October thirty-first and far exceeded the simple walk around the neighborhood, sugar highs, and sibling candy bargaining.

Halloween began with a trip to Jo-Ann Fabrics.

While many classmates wandered the three aisles at a seasonal costume mecca a week before the holiday, deciding between trendy movie character costumes and clichés in a bag, we'd park ourselves at a local fabric store table and spend hours poring over pattern envelopes and flipping through books.

"Can I be this, Mom?" We'd point to a picture of an outfit far too complex to be replicated by machines and mass-produced for the stores.

"Whatever you want to be," she'd always answer.

While our friends donned witch hats and princess tiaras, we were the Queen of Hearts. Maid Marian. Robin Hood. Snow White. A unicorn. Laura Ingalls Wilder. A hammerhead shark.

Whatever you want to be.

Our work was done with the selection of a pattern and a request, but for weeks on end, hers continued. After dinner, we'd troop downstairs to play and Mom would retreat to her sewing machine in the corner. We'd hear the buzzing of the sewing machine, punctuated only by the occasional request to try on a sleeve or opine on the angle of a hat.

One day a year, we were allowed to be whatever we wanted to be.

Without even a hint to naïve children, though, her tagline carried over into everyday life. When I wanted to be an actress, I was one. As I pranced onstage, Dad built the production's sets and Mom sewed costumes. Eleven sequined showgirl costumes by Thursday? Whatever you (and your friends) want to be. When my sister wanted to be a Division One college athlete, we piled into the car for practices across the state and tournaments across several. When my brother wanted to be a high-jump star, they huddled under blankets for hours for a two-second spurt of activity.

Eventually, we moved out of the house and began our own lives. College majors changed daily, and the refrain was always the same.

Mom, I want to major in English.

You've always had impeccable grammar. Whatever you want to be, you'll do well.

Maybe special education is the right choice.

You've always been so good with kids — your patience will serve you well in that profession. Whatever you want to be, your dad and I will support you.

I'm going to be a writer.

We've always said that's your gift. Whatever you want to be, we'll always buy your books.

I'm sure Mom groaned to herself each time we veered off track, gravitating toward the intricate (and occasionally downright bizarre) costume patterns and low-paying (and occasionally dead-end) careers. But she gritted her teeth just the same, and worked her magic.

Hindsight is always 20/20. As I look back on my childhood today, I recognize that mantra as the cornerstone of a remarkable woman. A woman who, despite the ever-blowing winds of change that accompany the rearing of three children, knew that her one task was to love us, unconditionally. Love us — and occasionally, tolerate us — and support us, whatever path or persona we chose. Whether we wanted to be a pink satin unicorn or a black velvet hammerhead shark.

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