Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Daddy's Little Girl


Babies. Now that I am 30, it seems like everyone around me has them.  I just got back from a trip to Tuscon to meet my godson that I am now complete mush over. I sat cooing, playing, snuggling, feeding and just soaking up every little bit of him that I could, from his soft little feet to the down hair on his head. More than once, I sat taking him in and would comment, "Oh he looks so much like his mom," or "look at him with those flirty eyes, just like his daddy I bet." At nine months old, he cannot speak, so it seemed I wanted to dissect aspects of him and assign them to one of his parents.

We all do it.  Harry Potter spent his entire time coming-of-age hearing how he had his mother's eyes. Little boys get told they have their daddy's appetite and love for Ohio State football (Or, let's at least HOPE they have a love of the Buckeyes.) It's a natural thing to do, to sit and figure out what pieces of each parent made the finished puzzle.

I always tell people that I look like my mom and act like my dad. I have my mom's big brown eyes, complexion, bright smile and skin that is pretty much perfect. I have my dad's wit, intellect and general disregard for social norms as to what is appropriate conversation.  That's not to say I do not have some  traits from my mom, as I certainly get my cooking skills, compassionate volunteer's heart and drive to care for others from her. Oh, and a knack for just making messes through general klutziness.

I do have people tell me that I look like my dad, it's just that I tend to take that as more of an insult than a compliment.

At the end of the day, I am my father's daughter. We are frequently described as two peas in a pod, his colleagues that know me well remark, "Old Man, she is just like you." I've always known that fact and am fine with it because I am awesome, and if I am just like my Dad, he must be awesome too. Note: My mom is extremely awesome as well. She once stayed up making dozens of ghost-shaped cut-out cookies the night before a school holiday party when I told her at 7 p.m. the night before the party that I signed her up for it. She frosted them with black sugar eyes and everything. That pretty much sums up her caring, crafty nature and my general disregard for anything that doesn't impact Cari in the immediate.

I had an experience on the highway the other day that was the nail in the coffin for me accepting that I am my father's daughter. Before I get to that, I'd like to provide you with a few examples of how I ended up the way I am because of him:
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Back in my school days, I was a member of the Student Council. Note: I have the distinction of being the only member of my class to serve every year on the Student Council (Nerd Alert!) I started my political career off in third grade, young and hungry (always hungry.) By fourth grade, I was elected as Secretary of our elementary governing body.  One of the many great things about coming from a small community is that the school makes a big deal out of mundane things, like a bunch of 8 & 9 year-olds practicing Democracy.  The week after the elections took place, there was a big inauguration ceremony of inducting the Student Council members into their positions. The general representatives were sworn in en masse. The officers were sworn in individually by members of the school board in front of the entire student body and community members.

It just so happens that the year I was voted in as Secretary (for the first time, I found running as an incumbent in fifth grade to be much less stress) my dad was serving on the school board and would be the one that I took my oath to.  The days leading up to the ceremony were a flurry of excitement. My mom took me out for a new dress, let me pick out real nylons! instead of those elephant skin-thick tights AND wear a shoe with a heel on it. Read: heel=1/8" platform rise.  She took me to Busia's to pick out proper jewelry to borrow. The day of the event, Mom curled my hair to perfection, the ideal balance of tease, curling iron and Aquanet. And I got to wear rouge on my cheeks and perfume to boot.

I felt like hot shit. Even at 9-years-old, I looked good and I knew it. Prior to the ceremony beginning, I am standing in the hallway with my Old Man, the President of the School Board (who happened to be our neighbor) and my first grade teacher (who's twin sister happened to serve as Ohio's Auditor as well as Attorney General.) The adults are chatting, I keep tugging at my nylons as I wait for the show to get on the road. I'm terrified I might trip on the stage, or flub my lines, or the curtains might fall on my head.

Old Man senses my nervousness and looks down at me, ready to dispense some fatherly advice. I held my breath, knowing that the words he shared would guide my political career, that I would quote them in my inaugural speech as the first female president. He smiled, looked down at me and said,

"Cari, keep your legs crossed. I don't want to see any beaver shots up there."

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The summer going into my senior year of high school, I visited Ohio University to scope out the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, as it was is one of the best journalism schools in the country. At the time, as Editor-in-Chief of my school's newspaper, I had aspirations of going on to work at The Chicago Tribune and winning Pulitzer after Pulitzer for my investigative reporting. After one day in Athens, I fell in love with OU. The rolling foothills of the Appalachians, the red brick roads, 23 bars in a quarter-mile stretch Uptown - it was my dream. Only caveat was Scripps was incredibly selective. The school had rigorous admissions requirements and an overabundance of qualified budding journalists wanting in.  At an informational meeting on our campus visit, it was stressed that applications for Scripps were not even looked at until December 15, so applying early gave absolutely no advantage as the admissions panel waited for all applications to be in before selecting the lucky 115 to get spots within Scripps.

The day after Thanksgiving, per tradition in my home My mom, her lifelong friend, daughter and I are busy baking thousands (not an exaggeration) of Christmas cookies.  An envelope containing a single sheet of paper arrived from OU that afternoon and I assumed it was a standard follow-up to confirm my application was received. I open it, start reading, "Congratulations! You have been selected for admission to Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism..." AHHHHHHHHHHH! I began yelling and jumping and crying, spouting out, "Scripps!" and "Got in!" between intangible screams of excitement and gasps for air. The admissions panel was not even supposed to be looking at applications, let alone accepting students! After I regained my senses, I called my Old Man to share in the exciting news.

A few hours later his Oldsmobile came rolling up the driveway. I ran out with the letter in hand as he pulls out a 12-pack from the backseat, holds it out in offering and says, "You're going to OU, it's time we start preparing."

Note: My mom is just as responsible for my lushy tendencies, as she once showed up to Mom's Weekend with 300 homemade jello shots with clever flavor combos. Lime with tequila, orange with peach schnapps, black cherry and vodka, strawberry and rum. I love my parents.

P.Note: Halfway through my junior year I became disenfranchised with the media and realized my calling was not to be a great journalist. I shared this with the Old Man and he encouraged me to finish the degree anyway as most people do not end up in fields that they majored in. So now I use my elite journalism education to ramble on a self-indulgent blog when I get too tipsy. Two of my favorite bloggers out there are former classmates of mine from Scripps and I highly encourage you to check them out: Caitlin at How To Place House writes about being a married Expat living in London and Kate writes honest commentary on being a wife, mom and career woman at Kate's Beautiful Chaos. I can assure you if you like my ramblings you will enjoy both of these talented writers.

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Old Man was primarily responsible for teaching Big Brother and me how to drive. My mom would let us drive for errands with her, but  I think it was too much on her nerves to see her babies driving. She swears to this day I got her Astro minivan up onto two wheels by taking a harsh right turn on my way to basketball practice.

The Old Man did not just teach us the rules of the road and good defensive driving, he also taught us helpful skills such as cruising through a drive-thru backwards, how to do donuts in empty parking lots and the art of eating a double cheeseburger while doing 70 in a construction zone.

The one lesson that stayed with my from my time driving with my Old Man was when he taught me how to express my displeasure with other drivers.

"Cari, don't flip other drivers the bird. That's pussy stuff. If you really want to piss off a guy that cut you off you, you point at him and say, 'You Suck!'" He then proceeded to show me the proper hand and face motions that go along with said insult.

I never was quite comfortable using my Old Man's method of giving other drivers the business. As a teenage girl, I was afraid that if I gave the gesture to male motorists, they might think that I am offering roadside fellatio instead of expressing how pissed I was. So I perfected my flip of the bird - one solid fist, no thumb sticking out, given in one fierce thrust as opposed to waving it around maniacally.

The other day I was cruising to the driving range and was at my breaking point with Vegas drivers. They are the worst I have ever seen, worse than Michigan driver (and I did not know that was possible!) I realized I was in the wrong lane at a red light, checked to make sure no traffic was coming up in the lane I needed and crossed over. A truck that was souped-up so extremely that the man was clearly overcompensating for *ahem* other aspects of himself was coming up in the lane about 1000 feet behind me. Seeing me cross lanes, he sped up and slammed on his breaks behind me at the red light that had been red since before he even exited the highway. He starts honking his horn, I make a clever witticism about the size of his gingerbread, immediately regretting that I wasted the line without an audience. The No Turn On Red light changes and Napoleon comes flying up next to me, flying the bird and honking his horn. And then it happened.

I yelled, "YOU SUCK," made the ugliest face that I could and gave him the fellatio gesture my Old Man taught me 15 years prior.  The driver looked stunned as he put his flying middle finger down,  realizing he lost this round of road aggression and sped ahead of me.

I pumped my fist in victory, feeling proud that I finally felt confident enough to own the gesture my dad taught me half my life ago.

Guess it's true what they say, father really does know best.