What I do, what I choose to do
May be dumb to you
But it’s not to me
–Craig Carnelia (from “Working the Musical”)
My refrigerator is a tacky receptacle of fun and interesting refrigerator magnets that stick quite a collection of photos, artwork, reminders, invitations, favorite comic strips and “stuff” to its surface. Nothing but the invitations and reminders are ever removed; the other items are just too special. I don’t know what I’m going to do when this refrigerator dies and I’ll have to remove my gallery of memories. (note: the fridge pictured above is NOT mine)
One of the most precious pieces of art on the fridge is circa 1990. That year, Shannon was four years old and in pre-school over at River Oaks Baptist School. Her teachers, Mrs. McDaniel and Mrs. Boone, would embellish a student’s good work with a smiley face that had a curlicue of hair twirling upwards.
At that point in time, Shannon had a good grasp of her letters and was sounding words out and even writing some. “FISH” was the first word she ever sounded out on her own without having ever seen it in a book (we were in the car behind a truck with that word on it, and she pointed and said, “FISH!” Boy, was I proud!).
One day that year, I was cross about something. I do not recall why, but apparently, Shannon noticed, and she carefully drew me a smiley face with that familiar curlicue of hair. She then wrote a note with her drawing, and presented it to me. The note said, “CHER UP MOM”. Of course I dissolved into laughter when I envisioned myself dolling myself up like Cher would at that point in her career, but of course understood that I was to CHEER up, and cheer up, I did.
Fast forward to 2009. This past weekend, Pure Sound (the youth choir that I have adopted) presented their annual summer musical, Babes on Broadway. This is a musical revue with a story line that weaves in between songs from the theater, movies, television, radio and such. In this particular show, one of my sweet girls presented the powerful and poignant number, “Just a Housewife” from Working the Musical.
Whitney is in the 11th grade and has no basis on which to relate to the words of this song. But she did a knock out job as she sang about how marginalized she had been made to feel because she chose to stay home and raise up her kids as opposed to going off and having a high flying career. She sang passionately about how important this was to her, and I wrote to her afterwards and told her I much I admired her performance, because I chose the same route years ago, and was also made to feel small by certain career women.
Why do I mention this? Because also stuck on my refrigerator is a very meaningful essay that my husband cut out of the Wall Street Journal years ago. I just re-read it with Whitney’s song reverberating in my head. Written by William R. Mattox, Jr., the essay affirms me even to this day. Mr. Mattox writes of taking his 8 year old daughter, Allison, to Take Your Daughter to Work Day (“as conjured up by the Ms. Foundation to better raise girls’ self esteem by exposing them to professional career women”).
Mr. Mattox had planned a day where he would introduce Allison to all sorts of powerful women, smart, connected and impressive. But he said he most looked forward to the drive home when he would tell her that her own mother used to have a job similar to the women she had met on that day. Then he will say to her: “Allison, you must be a very special young girl. Your mother could be using her talents and skills in all sorts of jobs in the workplace, but she has chosen instead to use them at home teaching you. She must love you very, very much and think you are very important.”
He continues, “Somehow I think that at that moment, my daughter’s self esteem will rise to a level heretofore unimagined by the organizers of Take Your Daughter to Work Day. And for that I owe a debt of gratitude to my wife, whose esteem-building job as a mother at home rarely receives the public esteem it deserves.”
I, too, walked away from an excellent job to stay home to raise up my precious Shannon. She is now grown and off on her own, and I think she is a fine young lady with a good head on her shoulders, very responsible, smart, hard working, frugal, thoughtful, loyal and caring. I like to think my influence had something to do with all of these positive characteristics, but who knows? Maybe she would have turned out that way even if I had chosen the other path.
But what I cherish most about that clipping is that Joel thought about me when he read it and took the time to cut it out for me. He wanted me to know that he appreciated what I did, even if society didn’t.
And so to Whitney (my “adopted daughter”): Never, ever forget this when the time comes for you to make a choice. I am so very proud of you for doing such an outstanding job!