Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Granddaddy Long Legs

I am searching for heartfelt and inspirational stories about mother-daughter relationships, stories that share wisdom and teach important moral and life lessons, stories from which daughters and moms might derive hope and guidance after reading them.

What did you learn from this unique parent-child relationship, how it has changed over the years, how you two dealt with conflict, etc? The stories can be about good or bad times, as long as the result is something others can learn from. There are no format or length requirements.

For more information about submitting your story, please visit my website, www.gregoryelang.com, and click the red corner on the home page, just beneath the “Projects” tab.

I’m also conducting recorded telephone interviews for those who prefer to tell rather than write their story. Just send me an email with your phone number and dates/times you are available. Interviews typically last 30-45 minutes.

If you’d like to submit a daughter-mom photo to display on this blog, please email it to greg.lang@mindspring.com.

If this is your first visit to my blog, please read the Frequently Asked Questions posted on March 20, 2008.

The deadline for submitting your story or participating in an interview is August 1, 2008.

Now on to today’s post~

Today’s photo is of my friend Andrea and her girls; it first appeared in my book, “Thank You, Mom.”

I’m certain I will get lots of grief for posting this without permission (like the husband in the TV commercial says, “I lead but only where she wants to go,” except in my case there are three shes) but here goes:

Jill is known as the “Fraidy Cat” in our home. She is the one who when riding the Ferris Wheel on the Santa Monica Pier was white knuckled holding onto the handrail with her eyes closed before the ride started and her teeth clinched so tight I’m still surprised she didn’t break a molar. “It’s not safe!” she shouted while Meagan, Linley and I laughed during the entire ride, taking turns rocking the seat to see who could elicit the loudest mommy scream.

She’s afraid of bugs, too, especially Granddaddy Long Leg spiders. Once while attending a family reunion picnic at a state park, Jill needed to use the public bathroom. Before she would venture into it, however, I had to inspect it for these spiders. My family howled as our daughters stood guard outside the women’s bathroom while I ventured inside and looked in all the nooks and crannies for the offending spider. Finding none, I announced that the facilities were indeed pest free. Jill, her anxiety put to rest, rushed inside for a much needed visit.

Approximately eight seconds later, the loudest glass breaking scream anyone has ever heard penetrated the steel door and concrete walls of the bathroom. The door burst open and Jill rushed out, her feet not touching the ground, still trying to fasten her pants as she sailed through the air like a hunger crazed jungle cat leaping onto some innocent but tasty Easter bunny.

“There was one on the ceiling,” she managed to say between gulping breaths when we finally caught up with her nearly 200 yards later.

So you can image my surprise when I asked Linley and Jill to share a story for this book and Jill suggested they tell me about a mother and daughter camping trip they took one weekend before Jill and I met. As far as I knew, Jill thought camping meant sleeping in a state of the art RV parked alongside the pool of a nice hotel with a noteworthy restaurant and spa inside.

Now Linley is quite the opposite of her mom – she is fearless. Knowing she had a long history of daredevil stunts resulting in broken bones and the need for stitches, I suspected I would need to employ my nursing skills on a few occasions after our family was formed. I had no idea I would be in an emergency room four times before our first wedding anniversary.

Linley has attended the same summer camp for years, sometimes staying for a month at a time and learning archery, riflery, repelling, canoeing, and how to build a fire without the convenience of matches. She doesn’t mind sleeping under the stairs, sharing a cold spring water shower with her campmates or brushing her teeth with a stick.

Jill, on the other hand, wouldn’t touch a stick unless two independent observers testified under oath there wasn’t and never had been a Granddaddy Long Leg spider on, near or even thinking about the stick.

Nevertheless, daughter and mom arrived at base camp one afternoon and proceeded to settle in. To Jill’s relief, the sleeping accommodations were a rustic cabin with bunk beds, not a tent. The first order of business after Linley searched the cabin for spiders was to sign up for the various activities offered. Linley selected archery and canoeing, and taking pity on her mother, also selected two classes, basket weaving and birdhouse building. On a whim, she completed her choices by signing up for the “The Pamper Pole” activity.

When Jill inquired about the last item on their list, Linley remarked, “Mom, how bad can it be with the word ‘pamper’ in the name?” Made sense.

The first day of mommy-daughter camping activities passed without a hitch. Jill and Linley enjoyed a morning of archery, Linley hitting the bull’s eye a few times and Jill finally managing to launch her arrow and have it stick in the ground halfway to the target. They also finished the day with a grass basket and brightly painted but somewhat oddly shaped birdhouse.

Jill fell asleep that night with a feeling of accomplishment, thinking the most difficult of her camping activities were behind her. Just how challenging could gliding on a lake in a canoe and something that involved pampering actually be, she reasoned.

The next morning Linley led her mother along a wooded path toward the Pamper Pole. Rounding a bend and approaching a clearing in the trees, Jill looked forward in horror. Straight ahead was a telephone pole sticking up in the ground. It stood somewhere between thirty and one-hundred feet tall, depending on who you ask. With tiny hand holds nailed onto the pole, a small platform on top and a rope dangling down, all thoughts of being pampered evaporated from Jill’s mind.

Before she could scream, “Don’t, it’s not safe!” Linley had strapped on a safety harness and scampered like a squirrel to the top of the pole. Jill’s heart stopped as Linley leapt straight out off the platform, grabbed a trapeze bar and performed a few circus acrobatics before descending to the ground. Jill, shaking like a leaf and nearly crying with fear, meet her daughter as her feet finally touched the ground. “I can’t do it,” Mom said over and over again.

“Yes you can,” Linley urged and somehow managed to convince her mother to give the pole a try. This is the point in the story at which the mother’s and daughter’s tales diverge. They cannot agree on how long it might have taken Jill to climb the pole and to steady herself at the top on the little platform. They cannot agree on how far out she leapt or by how much she missed the trapeze bar. They can’t even agree on how loudly she screamed on the way down or for how long after she was standing safely on the ground. All they can agree on is, yes, Jill did it, just like Linley said she could.

Later in the day mother and daughter slipped onto the lake in a canoe, Jill up front and Linley in back taking charge of steering (she, unlike Jill, had taken this class once before). At first they glided effortlessly along the water, but soon Jill noticed she was pulling hard against her oar and going around the lake in a wide circle. Looking over her shoulder, she found Linley with her head down on her arms folded across her knees, sound asleep.

Jill managed to get the canoe back to shore all by herself, all along the way peering into the water on the watch for snorkeling spiders. That night she slept well in her own bed, and deservedly with a genuine feeling of accomplishment for her two feats that day.

And Linley carries with her the knowledge her mother will face and overcome her fears on her daughter’s behalf.

2 comments:

Being Has'min said...

Hi

I am surprised about your comment. I really want to contribute our story on your book.

Thank you for visiting my site.

Michelle said...

I just wanted to take a moment to comment here on your work. I am not sure how I stumbled onto your blog initially, but it was from there that I found all of your books. I have now read two and am working on a third. I find them so moving, so inspirational. I purchased one for my mom for Mother's Day. I am also considering looking into contributing our story for your consideration in the next project. I'm even recommending your books via my Amazon affilaites link on my own blog for Father's Day. Thanks for the great works.