I was relieved to wake up this morning and find myself in bed rather than in a jumbo jet about to make an emergency landing on a remote, tree-lined highway somewhere. Airplane trips gone awry have become a recurrent theme lately as the departure date of our trip to England approaches. I don’t know how I became such an anxiety-ridden basket case but I suspect motherhood has something to do with it.
If I could get past the visions of irritated passengers, a sleepless infant and a whirling dervish four-year old high on Gummi Bears, I might actually look forward to the trip. It might help if I hadn’t recently heard the story of a friend of a friend flying with her toddler son who whined, “out, out, out” the whole way to Chicago. We do, according to Esther, have quite an impressive itinerary.
“Are we really going to see the queen?” she asked this morning, her mouth filled with Gorilla Munch. “Well we probably won’t actually see her, but we can see where she lives,” I said. “But I want to see her,” she insisted. “The queen has guards at her house and they don’t let just anybody in,” I explained. “Will she say to her guards, ‘go and kill that little girl?” she asked, her expression turning serious. “No Sweet, she could tell you weren’t dangerous by looking at you.” “Well we can just sneak around to the back door of her house then.” “That’s an idea.”
“What does a Queen do all day? Just go to balls and wear long fancy dresses down to here,” she said, reaching down to her feet.
She pensively ate a few more spoonfulls of cereal, then continued, “So we’re going to see the Queen, Mary Poppins and Madonna in England.” “Well, Daddy told you Esther, Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) lives in New York City even though she is from England.”
“And Madonna lives in England, even though she is from New York City,” she said proudly, connecting the dots. “Well yeah, something like that.” “We could go to Trafalgar Square and feed the birds, like in the “Tuppence” song,” Ian chimed in, hoping to get the conversation on a more realistic track. Dear old Daddy.
The Madonna saga continues. I made the mistake of telling Esther that Madonna lived in England, that she has horses and children. We have been discussing it daily ever since. “Can we go to Madonna’s house?” Esther asked in the car the other day while we were listening to “Jump” for the fifth time. “No Sweet,” I said. “We don’t know Madonna and you don’t generally go to people’s houses unless you know them.” That was the wrong answer. “But I do know her,” she said, getting angry. “ Well you think you know her Honey, but you don’t really do you.” “But I want to see her little daughter and her hair and her shoes,” she pleaded.
You would never know that I was a tomboy, completely indifferent, if not averse, to all things girlish until I discovered preppy hair ribbons at age 12. My little girl, on the other hand, is preoccupied with fashion and femininity.
It started early. I still recall the day I first recognized I had a fashionista on my hands. She was in the mudroom, throwing a tantrum about how her jeans were fitting over the tops of her shoes. She whined and tugged at the hem of her jeans. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “My pants won’t come down,” she sobbed, her eyes full of tears. “Last time they went over my shoes like this, but now they don’t.” Suddenly it hit me. Yesterday she was wearing the girly bootleg jeans, handed down from her friend Samantha. Today, she was wearing the Old Navy boy jeans inherited from her cousin Rudy. She may have been just 2 and a half, but she knew the difference. And she wasn’t having it. Off came the straightleg jeans and out of the hamper came the bootleg jeans.
“I don’t even know where Madonna lives,” I continued, trying to get myself out of this conversation quick before Esther burst into flames of frustration. “Well, we could just drive around, we might see cars,” she whined. “Okay Sweet,” I relented. “I’ll tell you what: We can ask Camilla (Essie’s teenaged British cousin) if she knows where Madonna lives and maybe, if we are lucky, we can see her house.”
To think of all the wholesome, cultural things we might do in England and we are planning to stalk Madonna instead.