Shine on

June 07,2011
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath( )

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

I'm often, almost daily, reminded of how bogged down in details we grown-ups get. Something happens when we get older, and we lose our ability to see through that small, kaleidoscopic lens that makes up almost the entirety of a child's field of vision. I notice this most often when I'm around T., who sees the world as such a brightly colored, positive, sunny, place. She's my glass-is-always-half-full child, whose spirit refuses to be daunted by mundane setbacks and petty concerns. If we tell her she can't do something because there's no time, or it's impractical (how boring of us!), or we don't have the right materials she'll find a dozen different ways to prove us wrong. 

When she's wounded she'll carry that wound deep down, but cover it with good things to help it heal. She's a loyal friend, who comes back again and again to people who maybe haven't been quite as kind to her. She wants to see only the good in people. I love this about her, but I worry, too, because I know that it's not so easy to see the good around you as you get older, and wiser, and that lens cracks and slips and you begin to see the world in different ways. People take advantage of you too if you're like T., and you give yourself too freely. She reminds me of my grandmother, and my sister, too--someone who, like T., steadfastly refuses to see the bad in people.

On Sunday we went to an end-of-year celebration for T.'s Y-Princess tribe. It was a family event--a chance for the other half of the family to see what it's all been about. At the start of the meeting before the potluck dinner, each dad and his daughter said a few words about their experiences with the tribe this past year. I thought back over the year's events, and over how many big milestones T. had crossed--backyard camping, a weekend away with Scott at a REAL camp, lots of day trips, tribe meetings, arts & craft activities, and community service projects, and I wanted to stand up and tell everyone there how grateful I was that T. had been given all those chances to shine, to be herself, and to be appreciated for who she is, and all she can give. I also felt immensely grateful for all that Scott did this year with T. and the tribe--never complaining once about any part of it all, even early-morning risings at the campouts, or meetings on crazy-busy weekends, or Y-Princess-related projects that started out small, but turned into half-day ones, like that bluebird house, which now houses a real, live, bluebird family.

I look at the house--solid, bright, and handmade--everyday on my way to the car and I smile inside, and feel a burst of love and pride for what it symbolizes.