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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Superwoman - hold the Kryptonite

Elyse and Hannah

Perspective makes such a difference.  Recently, we have had an addition to our household.  My cousin’s daughter, Elyse, has taken up residence for a year while she goes back to school.  After the past few weeks of trying to put a name to our relationship for the world at large, we have settled on a kind of shorthand; I am her “Aunt Dawn.”  It is a term of affection, respect and a loose nod to the genetic and societal relationship that exists. Her remarkable physical similarity to my own daughters makes it easy to believe.  Five years ago, my daughter, Hannah, was attending a model UN conference at Yale.  In a roomful of strangers, one young man was staring at her for the longest time. She tried to ignore the inappropriate behavior.  Aware of the lengthy scrutiny, Hannah asked him, 
 “What is it?”
  “It’s amazing how much you look like a friend of mine back home on Martha’s Vineyard,” he said.  Hannah swiveled to better face him from her lower position in the lecture arena.  
  “Who would that be?”  
  “You wouldn’t know her,” he said, “Elyse Madeiras.”  Hannah clapped her hand over her mouth in surprise. 
   “That’s my cousin!”  
At twenty-seven, Elyse is independent and mature. She brings with her a front of kindness, generosity, humor and competence.  I have noticed how her presence allows me to reconsider my view of myself.  The best example I can summon is about my life experiences.  
My son frequently complains that I have “read everything, done everything and (think that) I know everything.”  
(I can’t help but think of Mark Twain saying, "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years.")  
Certainly, nothing could be further from the truth.  Nothing could be further from my own thoughts about the sum total of my life.  As Elyse and I start to plait the bonds of what will surely be a close, lifelong relationship, we are telling stories.  The stories of family, of losses and of joys bring us together. In their telling, these stories allow us to frame the events that have shaped our lives in a more meaningful, and often, humorous way.  What I notice is that, through Elyse’s eyes, the copious reading I have done, the diverse experiences I have weathered and enjoyed, and the manner in which I have integrated practical and theoretical knowledge all add up to something good.  They are me.
I am worthy of her love. I am special. Elyse confided in me that there is a song that always makes her thing of me, Alicia Keyes’s Superwoman. I know enough to know that it is not everyday of our lives that we have a messenger arrive with that particular message. I am being sure to listen.   

You can listen to Alicia Keyes sing Superwoman; follow this link --

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