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Life lessons from a six year old.
If I was good at anything as a child, it was protecting my pride by refusing to participate in embarrassing activities. Most of childhood is embarrassing, I suppose, but I fought daily to dodge the unnecessary, character-building evils. I imagine my stubborn stand-offs like an old western movie, with my calm refusals always winning the shoot out over adults flailing their arms in frustration.
I’d skip my turn at the bat in t-ball by disappearing to the bathroom and going to the back of the line when I returned.
Somewhere, in a dusty attic in Wisconsin, there’s a VHS tape of me at five years old whisper singing Christmas songs with a red turtleneck pulled up over my nose, shielding myself from this solo performance one parent or another insisted on.
When I was in the second grade Campbellsport Elementary organized a school-wide dodgeball competition. My nightmare: to be seen by everyone doing something I sucked at. No way. What if a ball hit my head, hit my glasses, hit my ego? I refused. Mrs. Engstrom let me play games in the computer lab instead, and there was an unspoken understanding between us that I wasn’t supposed to tell the other kids.
No I won't spell that word in front of the assembly hall. No I won’t run a mile. No I won’t go outside for recess. Got any spelling tests I can grade?
I was a smart, sweet kid who grew up faster than she should have, which made me itchy to skip a few steps. Quick, slap some braces on me, I wanted to get to the part of life where I could make out and move to a big city and argue the injustices of the world with people who would listen.
There’s a lot to unpack in my avoidance of embarrassment, and it makes me a titch sad that I didn’t feel safe to be silly. I’m making up for lost time though, and my goddaughter Frankie, the ultimate funny girl, routinely reminds me that putting yourself out there is worth it.
Frankie was born cooler than the rest of us, no small thanks to her dream human beings parents, and is my constant source of awe and pride. She’s six, a Sagittarius through-and-through. Her middle name is Pearl, after the Janis Joplin record, which she thought was spelled “PRL” – all caps hers – for a while. Wouldn’t PRL make a good name for an upscale womenswear boutique? As a toddler she’d wake up from her naps asking to listen to “Bruce’s butt,” her Born in the U.S.A. record. All four of her front teeth are going to fall at any moment. I’m simultaneously clutching to her last moments of babyhood and excited to see her face in a new way.
Frankie’s my idol for 1,000 reasons, one of which is that she shows up to life in ways I didn’t as a kid. She stomps up to it, quite literally, oftentimes in a wonderfully wacky outfit. She was born with a sense of injustice in her bones, just like me, but she’s voicing hers far earlier than I did.
Another of the 1,000 reasons she’s my dream girl is that Frankie and a few of her friends recently started a club: Awesome Club. It’s so simple and so encouraging. Little girls leading the way. Why am I not a part of an Awesome Club? Why wasn’t I when I was six and why am I not at age 32?
While my brain is in meltdown mode considering, amongst other things, the death of democracy, could the trick to thriving in these weird times be…to be awesome? Could it be that easy? To discuss things that are awesome with people who are awesome and imagine ways to make the world more awesome? I suppose that’s what we’re all hoping for in our day-to-day, but when framed so simply, the mission becomes clearer.
I had some questions. Here, Frankie and I chatted about Awesome Club, as a wad of gum routinely fell from her mouth and she more than once stuck her foot in my face.
M: Hello Frankie.
M: I have some questions for you about Awesome Club. First of all, who is in Awesome Club?
F: Dottie, Alice, Skip and me.
M: What do you do in Awesome Club?
F: Be awesome.
M: Can you give me some examples of awesome things?
F: Unicorns are awesome. Ponies are awesome.
M: At your Awesome Club meetings, do you talk about awesome things, like unicorns and ponies?
M: No? What do you talk about?
F: We talk about sweet treats. *slips off the couch*
M: Hey, come up here! I have serious questions for you.
F: We sell cookies and cakes and cupcakes.
M: Where do you make them?
F: At Alice’s house because she knows how to use an oven.
M: Where do you sell them?
F: At Dottie’s house. Our next step is chocolate sugar cookies.
M: Cool. Are there other things you’d like to do with Awesome Club?
F: Well, I wanna get a pool so I can start teaching Swimming Club.
M: Who is the most awesome person you know?
F: Clara, but she’s not part of it.
M: What makes Clara so awesome?
F: She’s really nice and she’s been my best friend since daycare.
M: Which grown-up do you think is awesome?
F: Mommy and you.
M: What makes Mommy so awesome?
F: She can hold her breath for a minute.
M: Really? Wow, that is really awesome. What makes me so awesome?
F: You’ve been my babysitter for…
M: ...your whole life.
F: For six years, but in two months I’ll be seven.
M: What awesome thing do you want to do for your birthday?
F: I want to get our nails painted together, like the fancy massage type.
M: I would love to do that with you! You have different roles in Awesome Club, right?
F: Yeah, I’m president. I’m president for a month.
M: So you rotate? Someone else will be president next month?
F: Yes, Skip.
M: What’s another role?
F: Vice president. You said rules.
M: I didn’t, but are there rules in Awesome Club?
F: No rules, but you get to make your rules in your own Awesome Club headquarters. Did you notice something? I actually put marker in my hair.
M: That’s marker?
F: Yeah, Mom was like, “Whatever.”
M: Do you think other people should have their own Awesome Club?
F: No, it’s the one and only Awesome Club in the world.
M: You made t-shirts, right? Do you want other Awesome Club merchandise? Pins, headbands?
F: I would only want a headband if it has a unicorn on it.
M: What’s something super awesome that you want to do in your life?
F: I want to walk all the way around the world 13 times.
M: How are you going to walk over the oceans?
F: I’ll swim. But I don’t want to do that because of sharks.
M: Yeah, that’s something to consider.
F: I’m just going to go behind the couch…
M: Are you done with this interview? Is this the end? Do you have anything else to say about Awesome Club?
F: We dye our hair blue. With marker, everybody! Peace out!
Little Frankie, age two, rocking out to her favorite song at the time, Glory Days.
The kids are gonna be alright? This kid will be at least. She could take over the world tomorrow, as far as I’m concerned.
Before you go, tell me something awesome, would you? Tell me about someone awesome, something awesome, somewhere awesome. Unicorns and ponies are acceptable responses.
‘til next time,
P.S. Have you voted yet? Seeing an official printed ballot with both Donald Trump and Kanye West’s names on it is not what I thought the future would be like when I was avoiding dodgeball competitions.
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