Seeing Is Believing
So I'm onto my teenager when, a week before Easter, I catch her bopping to a TV commercial for Toys "R" Us that features cute bunnies wailing "Here comes Peter Cottontail/ Hoppin' down the bunny trail . . . " She wants new video games or some PlayStation upgrade, I'm thinking. Wrong.
"Mommy?" comes the query-with-cheesy-grin the next day. "Don't freak out, but I was wondering . . . can I get my belly button pierced?"
My mind races. Were the Toys "R" Us bunnies sending subliminal messages? Nah. Must be those rump-shaking music videos on MTV, BET, and VH-1, or maybe the barely-there clothing ads in Teen People, CosmoGirl, and YM. I go on the parental offensive.
"Why do you want your belly button pierced?" I demand.
"It looks cool," she says blithely, adding some teen-logic about how all the girls at school and in tumbling class are doing it, which means other parents think it's OK, which means I shouldn't be a square. I remind her that I don't buy into keeping up with the Joneses, but I still call a few of her friends' parents to inquire after their kids' navels, and ask about reputable piercing parlors where needles are clean and black leather is kept to a minimum. At tumbling class, I ask for further proof and am treated to glimpses of all manner of gemstone navel jewelry.
We moms commiserate with each other about how to support safe forms of creative expression, and for the most part we allow that body piercing ("Only one!" I solemnly declare later as if holding a stack of Bibles) is really what that amounts to. Still, we miss the days when Easter-time indulgences came in the form of chocolate eggs and skates--days when we made all the choices for kids who now, with supervision, are trying to make some of their own. What's more, we have personal memories of what it's like to be in their shoes.
"Mama, can I wear an Afro?" I asked my mother in the mid-'70s, back when teenage girls like me would have given our right arm to have hair like actress Tamara Dobson in the movie Cleopatra Jones. An old-school, Lena Horne type of lady, my mother's response to my request was a curt "Hell no!" What happened to me after I got hold of a tease comb and a can of Aqua Net hair spray doesn't bear repeating here--but suffice it to say, the episode still serves as a personal reminder of the bumpy terrain of youthful self-assertion and parental control.
The piercing itself (a quick and seemingly painless procedure done by a nice female tattoo artist who was also the mom of an 8-year-old) was anticlimactic: My daughter hadn't instantly morphed into a poster child for Fast Girls USA or the future star of some anti-drug campaign. "I'm not changing, Ma. . . . Well, I am, but I'm not. You know what I mean?" It meant she was a classic adolescent who is changing but wants to assure her parent that all is well, that she needs independence but won't take it for granted. It meant that she was, in fact, changing, but that our connection wasn't--proof of which came in a way neither of us expected.
On Easter Sunday, on the tail end of a trip to Virginia Beach, we visited Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment, an institute named after the man many spiritual seekers consider to be a pioneer of metaphysics and holistic medicine. On the way there, my daughter and I made jokes about bogus psychics like one-time TV guru Ms. Cleo.
But inside the modern stone building with striking bronze sculptures and a large New Age bookstore, we sign up alongside five other visitors to take an "ESP" test. Neither of us is telepathic, we discover, having scored average on a test where visitors try to sense shapes--stars and circles--that flash on a hidden screen in front of a small auditorium. We humph, elbow each other, and then proceed to test our clairvoyance skills. We hold closed envelopes that contain pictures and try to intuit the images. My envelope feels hot for some reason, and I write, rather haphazardly, "Hot, rocks, sun, canyon, desert . . . "
When it's time to reveal our pictures, I scoff again when mine turns out to be an image of a purple candle and a bunch of grapes. "Look around you," a site staff person says. "Sometimes you get the images of those with whom you are closely connected." Seated behind me, I turn to glance at my daughter's image and gasp: It's a blazing sunny sky in a desert where a rainbow crosses over a rock canyon.
"Look! Can you believe it?" I say excitedly to my kid, showing her the words I'd jotted down on paper. "Yeah, yeah, I know," she says. "Told you."
Here's Looking at You (5/19/2004)
...I've gradually discovered that my heart's got issues when it comes to whatever place I call home.
Sappy Anniversary (5/12/2004)
Suburban flight isn't the only reason many schools have resegregated almost organically, especially in cities, like Baltimore, with vast "minority" populations.
Efforts to snuggle closer to the Big Dawg seem more doable--not to mention, if heaven awaits, more worthwhile.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201