"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bottled determination

"You owe me" says the voice on the other end of the phone. One of those rare mornings when Newel's late start for work has earned him the opportunity to drive the kids to school. "Janie?" I ask. I don't need to ask. I'm just hoping the apologetic tone of my voice will smooth the "short end of the stick" feeling I know he's experiencing on his drive to the office just minutes after making the drop. Nothing else need be said. I can picture it now. Something akin to stubborn persistence over a window seat, only jacked up on acid. A finger on the lock defying anyone to use the car door which now has exclusive ownership. A seat belt war. And there are certain rules -- no breathing, no looking and no crossing the personal space cloak of invisibility that exudes three inches from the surface of her skin. Ah ... Janie.

If I could glean determination off of that one and bottle it to sell, I'd be a wealthy woman no doubt. People tell me they've never seen anyone like her. Offhanded comment, yes, but I'll take it. She's certainly got spunk and, well, whatever else you'd call it. In kindergarten, I put her on the bus one morning. After a few minutes in an uninterrupted hot shower, the phone rang. "Janie's still out in the school parking lot on the bus." said the school secretary. "She refuses to come in until Mr. Harrell comes out to carry her to class." I'm sure Mr. Harrell, the principal, was loving this. Secretaries don't like to hear "leave her there" so I headed down to do what I could. Upon my arrival, all had been solved. Mr. Harrell had convinced her to come in and go to class and having received her winnings, a moment on everyone's stage, she'd merrily done so.

Last year, Janie came home with a flier in her hand for Student Body Council. First grade? Really? -- hmm. Only one class member could be chosen and it had been trumped to the class as an opportunity to develop leadership skills. They need only write a couple of sentences telling why they would be a good choice for their class. Janie disappeared with it along with her homework and came back with sentences that read: "Leaders are the best and I'm the best. So, don't you want the best?" Somehow, she won. Council was held on Wednesday mornings before school and each and every time, she was ready. One evening at dinner, we asked what she was learning there, and she said that they were gathering ideas of ways to better the school. We, as a family, started throwing out suggestions such as donated books for the school library or more trees to add shade to the playground. Janie told us that those were all very good ideas but that she had already suggested in the council meeting that hash browns available as a daily lunch option would best serve the school. The Council had told her to take it to a class vote and so she did, and the first grade class had approved. Her teacher, probably dismayed that this nonsense had gotten so far, informed the class that the decision would remain with Mr. Harrell -- who consequently vetoed the motion with all due respect. Needless to say, Janie fell in love with the power of negotiation and the ability to sway the masses.

Sometimes it's hard to take. And sometimes it's incredibly ingenious, the inner workings of that girl's mind. She fights for the top, no matter what the score. We've had our battles, pitting will against will, but she's determined and self confident and I love that about her. She will never be the underdog. The lights will certainly seem just a little bit dimmer when her time here is through, some of the color will be missing from my day to day life. Janie just sets everything aflame. And I'd pay good money for a bottle of that sort of determination.

Ask her and she'll tell you, to look for her on the gold metal stand in the Olympics someday.

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