My un/homeschooled thirteen-year-old daughter Daina has several addictions in addition to books which are, of course, her One True Love. In Daina-language, she says she belongs to “many fandoms,” which smacks of something between Disney and Dungeons and Dragons, but she’s a hard sell for corporate darlings, and she never burns when I douse her in holy water, so I find myself in the peculiar position of out-of-touch mom.
I, the youth group lovely who landed herself in a maternity ward two short years into college life, practically grew up with Daina. I still don’t feel ‘done,’ if I’m being completely honest. I can do Mom voices really well, though, and the littles in the house believe them enough to walk to Time Out unassisted.
This is proof of adultness, I think, that you can convince someone to move without yelling at them.
This is to say that, when I feel disconnected from this daughter-sister-friend, my heart breaks a little.
Here are weird things I’ve heard this week:
- “Look, Mom. I just sheared my sheep!”
- “Have you seen all this wheat I’ve grown?”
- “Yes! I finally tamed my horse!”
- “I have to breed my animals.”
This is the language of my people, but these words aren’t her own. She’s adopted my parents’ Alabama tongue. These are rural rumblings, and I’m looking at her like this:
I’m fluent in Starbucks and have the human equivalent of echolocation which directs me to clearance end caps at Target. I don’t ‘sheep.’ I don’t ‘wheat.’ When I think of horses, Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle comes to mind.
Yet, here she is, getting her agrarian on in the middle of my living room and using the same language to talk about raising pigs that my dad used when he’d tell stories about going to the farm.
There is a life’s chasm between saying a farm versus the farm.
The deepest thinking I’ve done about farms has been from the safe, air-conditioned space of my office, sitting behind my precious L-shaped espresso desk complete with frosted accent window on the front (man, I sound like Shauna Niequist here sans a prosciutto reference). William Carlos Williams comes to mind as the poem I most hated in high school: “The Red Wheelbarrow.”
Here it is in all its glory:
The Red Wheelbarrow
William Carlos Williams
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
Let me tell you why I hated this.
- At the time I assumed poets made lots of money from their work. Some of you still may think this, and you’re hilarious, and we love you.
- At the time, I might’ve even thought that our teachers got a kickback when they covered the works. I knew nothing but markered hallway origami letters and boys at the time.
- I could not believe that the poem had made it past editors and publishers and decades’ worth of readers. I seriously thought it must have been some big rug pulled over too many peoples’ eyes.
Yet, here it was, staring me in the face year after year after year, following me into college, too.
One professor, Dr. Bob Coleman, changed so many things about what I read, the way I read, and how I responded to works, and after one class with him, I remember coming around a little to the poem and thinking I could live with its being accounted for as a great work. It was all in the first two lines: “so much depends / upon.” It wasn’t the wheelbarrow; it was the people. It wasn’t the chickens; it was their purpose. It had nothing to do with the objects and everything to do with what lives were affected by the stuff of life.
Dr. Coleman was one of a few professors at South Alabama that made me love some literature by proxy. It wasn’t always the work; it was how he was about the work that made it so worthwhile and meaningful and essential to me.
In our home, “so much[, too,] depends / upon” Minecraft and these invented worlds, from the food Daina grows to the animals she tends to and watches over. “So much depends / upon” what matters to her because she matters to me. Our hearts are tethered in ways that make me interested in whatever interests her, no matter what.
Just like Williams in a Coleman class, I loved it by proxy. It wasn’t it; it was her. It was the love and the people. It’s always the love and the people for me.
It’s love by proxy that explains why I know what nail polish is “Tardis blue” or who lives at 221B Baker St. It’s love by proxy that explains why I know what faction Tris chose after she left Abnegation. It’s love by proxy that gleamed with pride when she revealed my birthday present this year: an elaborate “Happy Birthday, Mom” message, standing 3-D and glowing in the night inside a Minecraft world she’d built just for me.
Love by proxy gives me hope. The idea that we can love and accept on the basis of what another person loves and accepts makes me think God’s cutting me slack some days, that he doesn’t find me boring, and that he laughs at my best jokes—and even some of the bad ones.
Love by proxy makes me relax a little, to know God might wait on me forever the same way I wait on Atticus when he just feels like sitting on the bench outside the preschool for a while before getting into the car, that God won’t whine at me when he sees I’ve got angry poems stashed in my pockets that same way I smile instead of sigh when I find piles of playground acorns loosed from 2T pantlegs in the washing machine.
Love by proxy means the kind of God who holds your hand when the weeping angels come, the kind who makes you brave enough to move beyond creative mode, and the kind who cares for the acorns because there’s some dirt he’s left vacant for just such a day.
He’s the kind of Mom who doesn’t blink for fear of missing a moment of you.by