Hadley has many goals, and one of them is to be the President of the United States. That has never been an aspiration of mine. Luv-a-Bull? Yes. If I could add Luv-a-Bull to my list of accomplishments that would be top-notch. But since this is not Hadley’s dream, I tell her about my friend Laura who also wanted to be President.
“She’s a lawyer now,” I tell Hadley and she thinks that’s great, but what she really loves about my friend is two stories:
The first is that Laura made me good at floor hockey. I was the only left-hander on the team so I was always left-wing. Laura played right wing and she, along with most of the Chicagoland area, knew that because I was so bad at sports nobody ever blocked me. She’d make it look like she was going to shoot so everyone crowded around her, then she’d flick the puck in my direction. And because I was notoriously terrible at all sports, I was always wide open.
“And so you’d shoot?” Hadley asks.
“And so I’d shoot,” and with as much drama as I can muster (because I don’t have too many sports stories to inspire Hadley with), I say, “and I’d score.”
The other Laura story Hadley loves to hear has to do with the time she and I were walking home from school when a boy decided he’d taunt us. “You can’t throw. You’re not as fast, or strong, etc. etc.”
This really bothered me. Not just because they were mean things to say, but because for me, they were true. But Laura didn’t seemed phased at all. I remember watching her as we walked and thinking she looked as though she hadn’t even heard this kid.
At one point, he got in front of us and said, “You think you can catch? Catch this!” and threw a baseball at us, heading straight for our shins. I screamed and bolted out of the way, but Laura stood right where she was and caught the baseball with her legs.
“With her legs?!?!” Hadleys asks and her eyes are sparkling and she is laughing as she asks it. I can tell she’s found herself a hero.
“Yup. Just below the knees,” I say. “It was amazing.”
I’m pretty sure that was the day Laura told us she wanted to be President. At least, that’s how I remember it, standing on the corner of Jackson and Gunderson by the fence with the purple morning glories that had closed for the day. We frequently stopped at this corner and chatted before Laura and a few others continued down Jackson, their backs to the Sears Tower, and the rest of us turned and walked down Gunderson, towards the el tracks. This is what I tell Hadley.
“That’s what I want to do,” she says and I know she means be President and catch a baseball just below the knees when a boy chucks it at her.
I’m glad to give my girls stories of women they might want to be like, which is why, when I picked them up from school last week, I was glad to tell them that a woman is running for President.
The day was warm and even with the windows rolled down the three of us were hot. I looked in the rearview mirror at the girls and the hair along their foreheads was wet.
“When I’m President,” Hadley said, “there’s going to be a tomboy section in Target.” She extended her arms so it hung out of the window, and moved her palm so it fiddled with the air. She was deep in thought and I wondered what dream she was going to articulate next. “And if girls get hot while they’re playing soccer at recess, they can take their shirts off.”
That’s my girl.
“No shirts, huh?” I said, making eye contact with Hadley from the rearview mirror.
“Well,” she said, “only if they don’t have,” she patted her yet to be developed chest, “you know.”
“Only if they don’t have homework?” Harper asked, finishing Hadley’s sentence.
Hadley smacked her forehead and said, “No, Harper!” But Harper wasn’t interested in being corrected. She was dreaming her Presidential dream.
“When I’m President,” she began, “no homework for any children.” She put both hands behind her head and added, “Unless you got coal for Christmas.”
Hadley looked at her and rolled her eyes. “And if you did get coal for Christmas?” Harper said, raising an arm and a finger, “Helloooooooo homework!”
Later that evening, I met Celena for dinner, just around the corner from Ford’s Theatre. Celena was in DC for a couple of days before she began her German Marshall Fellowship.
Celena and I crammed in every topic that came to mind as we sat pillowed between the White House and the Capitol: work, marriage, kids, all of it. She told me how excited she was for this fellowship, and also how hard it was to say goodbye to her son. I told her that while it isn’t exactly the same, I never got used to saying goodbye to Hadley and Harper before I left for residencies.
It felt good to share a pizza and drink wine and talk about how strange it is to be sad and afraid, excited and happy at the same time. These mixed emotions make it hard to know whether the path you’re walking (or running) down is the right one because they are all so palpable. They demand a lot of attention. I confessed to Celena that as crazy as this year has been (a move, a new degree, a teaching position), I am having such a good time. But what is the most fun is that I have surprised myself. I really didn’t think I could be a mom and be a teacher. That was a rule I made for myself years ago and I broke it. I feel both very sad and very happy that I broke it.
After dinner, we walked to Ford’s Theatre because Celena wanted a picture. She walked into the middle of the street during a break in traffic, got out a huge camera lens and took a shot.
I stood on the sidewalk and wondered when it was Ms Clinton decided she wanted to be President. Had she always known? Or did she surprise herself?
And does she have a friend or two to help her with the things she doesn’t think she can do? Does she have a gal who will let her know it’s OK to be afraid when a boy says, “You can’t do it as good as me?” And when she thinks it might be true will she have a friend who will prove him wrong? Or a friend who, when she’s afraid and excited, sad and happy at the same time, can say, “Me too, Hillary. Me too.”
I hope so. Because I don’t think we can do it all by ourselves. We need friends to help us play the game.