18 February 2008

Mirror people

The daughter presented me with her birthday wishlist.

Her wishes include (but are not limited to):

A rope
A first aid kit
A knitting class
A Swiss Army knife (just a small one).

My near 11-year-old, the survivalist.

This is the same child who would have given her right arm for a Barbie birthday cake when she was 4. She rapidly morphed into the girl who asked me for a chainsaw when she was about 6. We were wandering through the hardware store one morning, and I saw her little blue eyes gleam with preternatural interest as we got into the heavy machinery.

"Can I have one?" she asked.


"For my birthday?"


"For Christmas?"

"What are you going to do with a chainsaw?"

"I don't know. But I like them."

The truth is that the daughter has never been much of one for toys, conventional or otherwise. She would smile charmingly at the lovely little dolls her grandmother handed her, and then set them aside to get into the really interesting stuff: art supplies, writing materials, paper. Several years ago, at a total loss for a birthday gift, I offered her a shopping spree at Office Depot. I came home with pens, crayons, scissors, glue, Scotch tape, a ream of paper, and one extremely happy girl.

You would be amazed at how often GI Joe has been mummified in Scotch tape.

I'm not sure where the sudden interest in first aid kits and Swiss Army knives came from, though she may have been listening to some of the neighbors and I discussing earthquake preparedness the other night over a bottle of wine. The son got her The Daring Book for Girls for Christmas, and for all I know, she's also been reading his book on surviving the zombie apocalypse.

She isn't so very different from another girl, though, who used to hop on her bike and ride out of the desert and up into the mountains. That girl was a tree climber and knitter, too, and she would lie on her stomach in the dirt, talking to the lizards and horned toads who would watch warily from beneath a shady hedge. The daughter is a little unnerved by lizards and would rather dig for fossils beneath the spreading branches of the Italian stone pine in the backyard. We both keep an eye out for unusual birds.

And true, for Mother's Day, I ask for power tools and wheelbarrows. Back when I had to take the bus to work early in the morning and home again late at night, changing buses in downtown L.A., I carried a 16" pipe wrench in the bottom of my bag. I reasoned that I could use it as a weapon, but no one could accuse me of concealing a weapon.

Sometimes, though, it's hard to see how like me the daughter is. The son thinks precisely the same way that I do, which makes it extremely easy for us to communicate in half sentences that never need to be finished. The daughter thinks like her father, but acts like me, and this throws me off balance, to the point where I find myself spluttering, "Where do you come up with these ideas?"

For the answer, though, all I really need to do is look in the mirror.

Go listen to some good music: "Mirror People" from the album Earth Sun Moon by Love and Rockets.

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