They called her “the watcher.” My daughter, Mary quietly sat at the playdough table for the first year of nursery school. As she rolled and patted, she watched. Her teachers wondered and worried a little. They tried to entice her into different activities and play experiences. But for the first year, she just watched. By the second year, she gradually branched out to puzzles and pretend, but she continued to watch.
In kindergarten, she walked around the playground at recess. She stayed close to a teacher and watched the shenanigans on the climbers and swings. When a key was lost in the sandbox, she patiently searched until it was found.
Adults began to appreciate her. She was not disruptive in school. She did her work and did it well. The good teachers realized that when she did speak, she usually had something important to say. Classmates learned to listen carefully.
The challenge of junior high was met with dignity, as she observed the girls getting sillier and the boys joining in. She was a part of it but also apart from it. She began to write. She edited the yearbook. She prepared herself for high school.
Now at age sixteen, she is finding her voice in the Royal Voice, her high school newspaper. Her careful observations of her surroundings are written into her humour column, “How to be…” (how to be bad, how to be politically charged, etc.)
A month ago, she asked me to take her to Chicago for two weeks this summer so that she can attend the Second City Boot Camp for sketch comedy writing. I said no. Then I said yes. My teenage daughter and I will leave our dead end gravel road in rural Manitoba to live in downtown Chicago from July 24 – August 4, 2006. I have only been to Chicago once before. It was the early 80’s and I was there to see a spiritual master (but that is another long story).
So Mary is working hard at her part-time job at the local corner store to save her money. My husband and I are trying to pull together some cash, too so that Mary and I can go on this huge adventure. We don’t know what to expect and to be honest, I’m terrified. But I will do this for Mary. I will do this because her watching is becoming her telling of life as she sees it.
©Conni Cartlidge, 2006