Her death came after a very brief illness. It was devastating, especially for me, as I was still just a kid. Even today, I can remember my mom coming home from the hospital in tears with the news, and how I went outside to swing on my swingset, letting the idea of a world without Granny sink in to my brain. After the burial, we all met back at my aunt's house for the traditional post funeral meal of fried chicken, deviled eggs, macaroni and cheese, and banana pudding. The house was packed, so I slipped outside unnoticed because something caught my eye earlier in the day, and the burgeoning bad girl in me needed to investigate.
My older cousin came back to town for the service, and I took quite an interest in the fact that he was driving a motorcycle. The younger cousins and uncles were admiring the bike, and I was among them. I loved the idea of racing down the highway, wind whipping my hair and rushing around me like a hurricane. The freedom of the open road was calling my pre-teen heart.
Noticing my obvious lust for life, he offered to take me on a spin around the neighborhood. I knew without asking that my mom would never let me get on that motorcycle, so, of course, I gave a resounding, "YES!" I had to be discreet because my mother didn't need any more stress, and if she found out I went for a ride on that bike, my funeral would be next. When the coast was clear, I hopped on, helmet-less, and off we sped into the blazing sun. (South Carolina still doesn't have a helmet law. Hello?)
It was a glorious ride. I had only ever been on my blue and pink Huffy bicycle, so I felt like I was on a rocket to Mars that late summer afternoon. Luckily, we made it back safe and sound, and it felt so good to be so bad, as I giggled over what I thought would be our little secret. It was our little secret for about thirty seconds after he parked the bike because as I was getting off, I dragged my mischievous, little calf across the fiery-hot muffler. That's right. In an instant, I went from pure joy against a soundtrack of crickets and cicadas to falling on the ground and gasping at the sight of a nasty burn the size of a plum on the inside of my leg. It was oozing and sloughing off skin, and I thought I heard a small voice off in the distance whispering, "Karma is a bitch".
The secret was out. How could I not tell my mom? If no medical attention was required, my leg at least needed Mama attention. If she hadn't been distracted by the sadness of the day, she would have kicked my butt right there in front of God and second cousins twice removed. The burn was so disgusting as it started to heal that my older brother called me "Pizza Leg" for weeks. I still have the scar to remind me of the start of my girl gone bad ways.
So, what made me think back to this painful day, a day that marked the beginning of my rebellion against all that is good and pure? This is my daughter...
She's six years old. Does it scare me to know that she would have driven off on this motorcycle given half a chance? Do I cringe at the thought of my mother's words coming true? ("Just wait. You'll have a daughter some day, and she'll give you a hard time just like you're giving me!") Do I worry that she'll fall for a tall, skinny, dark-haired guitar player who is just as addicted to her as he is addicted to crystal meth? In one word: Yes.
My daughter is so much like me. She hates authority, is fiercely independent, loves the bad boys, and knows that her way is the only way. What scares me more is that she is also everything I'm not: bubbly, adventurous, the life of the party, and fearless. My anxiety kept me out of jail, in school, and off Welfare. With this combination of personality traits, my child will either be the President of the United States or the CEO of a high-end call girl business catering to out-of-control sitcom stars. At this point, I can see it going either way.
I'm encouraging the straight and narrow. Even though I laugh about her love of tattoos and shaking her booty, I have my hand on her shoulder, gently guiding her away from the road I trod. Honestly, I was really hoping that "Wild Child" gene would have skipped a generation...