On the morning Ava was born, my husband and friend stood at the nursery window and stared at the 7.3 pound baby girl who had just failed her sucking test. Her lips remained pursed; her brows wrinkled between two puffy blue eyes. It was her first protest.
“Oh my God,” said my friend, covering her mouth. ”That’s Katy’s mother!“
Yes. I gave birth to my mother down to the feet. Ava’s stamped footprint was so long that her heel smeared off the cardboard certificate. My mother wore a 7.5-AAAA shoe. Long and skinny, like a rabbit. Ava wears that size now.
Nearly a decade later, I am more convinced than ever that Ava really is Betty reincarnated. Between the facial expressions and attitude, I know exactly what to expect from this petite person who insists on wearing a robe and house slippers for shuffling around the house. Oh, yes, she does.
Is she a little old woman? Well, not really. She’s just…mature. And I have to tell you (as I start a sentence with the word I was taught NOT to use in grammar class), she didn’t inherit this trait from me.
The other day, Ava asked a loaded question about equality after reading my blog blasting Sheryl Sandberg (the chief operating officer of Facebook) for being out of touch with real, working women.
“Why do women want to be like men?” she asked. ”I don’t want to be like a boy,” she announced.
That’s not exactly what it means, I began. The writer wants women to be competitve; to go out for the same positions in jobs or sports. She wants women to get the same level of pay for that work, and she wants them to stop being afraid of trying things that are hard.
Ava wasn’t impressed or inspired.
“But I don’t want to be treated the same way,” she insisted. ”I like being treated like a girl.”
And how is that? I asked.
“I don’t want to be rough,” she said simply. “Boys get crazy and I don’t like that.”
Have you seen your sister? I asked. She’ll go out for the football team, and I feel sorry for the boy who tries to block her. The kid likes Pink Floyd and has asked to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to see “The monster from ‘The Wall’”. Clearly, this is Mike’s child.
But my throwback means what she says. I also feel sorry for the poor chap who tries to ask her to the prom.
“But, Ava, what do you want to do with yourself?” I know the answer to this question, but I was curious if it had changed.
“I want to go to U.C. and get a degree in elementary education so I can teach kindergarten,” she announced. ”Then, I want to get married and have a boy and girl. And then, I want to stay home and take care of them.”
(You see? Last week’s blog wasn’t b.s.)
Whom are you going to marry? I asked.
“Harry Styles,” she replied, giggling. The British boy band has invaded our house to the point that the Union Jack hangs in her bedroom. (I can’t be a hypocrite. I have a life-sized cardboard cutout of Paul McCartney in mine.)
Be serious, I demanded.
“I am serious!” she protested. ”I’m going to marry a man from England because they have better manners,” she announced.
And where would you have learned anything about manners? I countered. Her father opened the car door for me last Saturday night because the child safety locks were stuck and I couldn’t get in.
“Harry has beautiful speech and he wanted to study law and business before he became a singer,”
Oh. I see. You intend to marry well. Then what?
“I don’t know yet,” she said. “But I want a spa tub in my bathroom so I can relax.”
Later than evening, Ava entered the kitchen carrying the book, Scat, by Carl Hiaasen.
“Mummy,” she began. I swear, she called me Mum. ”This book has bad words in it,” she confirmed, handing the well-worn paperback to me.
Oh? How so? Didn’t you get it from the library?
“They say the “D” word and the “A” word.”
Are you new here, Miss? Have you not observed your father watching “Morning Joe” on TV?
I think you’re old enough to handle those two, I said. While I don’t want you to use foul language, you’re going to have to get used to hearing people express themselves in cheap ways.
“Well, I don’t like it,” she said.
Forget marriage. I’m now worried about middle school.
The next afternoon at elementary school, Ava emerged with a new book and a new experience to report. She stepped into the car with her pea coat and stuffed backpack; her blond hair tucked behind her ears.
“Today was our physical fitness test in gym, and I did an entire set of BOY PUSH-UPS without stopping!”
Boy push-ups, huh? Why’d you do a thing like that? Why not the girl kind?
“Everyone had to do the same ones. We had to be equal.”
Oh. I see. There’s that word again. And how did that work out for you?
“Well, I got really hot and really sweaty, and my face was red, and my shirt was sticking to my neck, so I want to go home and change, please.”
And with my throwback in the backseat and little sister belted in next to her (wearing blueberry yogurt on her shirt), we went home so one of them could slip into something more comfortable.