Mary Janes Are Also Shoes.

You are scrubbing the tub. The jaundiced strips between the tile resist as you swipe back and forth, rhythmic, dare-you-say engaging with the choreography of a moment, brightening the space the way one would take the time to occasionally shine a shoe warn daily. 

You don’t do it all that often, so you feel domestic, proud to carve out a non-negotiable instant for such a clear task. Typically, even the slenderest undertakings are frayed by the callings and requests of your youngest daughter, five-year-old Ruth. COVID, and having you and Jesse in the house all the time for the past year has really exacerbated this. When left to her druthers, she’d be stuck to you or Jesse like a wet leaf. Or the screen. But she gets bored of the screen pretty quick. So, you are feeling joy in having left her down the hall with a coloring book and some paper as you do this chore. Autonomous, the way your grandmother would have had your mother do.


You are playing your Apple Music “Heather’s Station” on the Bluetooth in the kitchen, where Ruth has positioned herself. Songs rise out of the algorithm—what they think you’ll enjoy today based solely on what you enjoyed yesterday. Between tub rinses, you hear Regina Spector, Amy Winehouse.


Then, in a perforation between loud-water, you realize the song has changed and you missed the beginning, but you recognize the music.


Silver magic ships they carry, jumpers, coke, sweet Mary jane…


Oh dear. You manage a speedy mall-walk down the hallway (because drawing attention to your mission would most certainly have an adverse effect) and you click to the next song, Ray LaMontagne, and return to your tub. 

Individually, this series of words is benign. Hell, Ruth just named her stuffed Easter bunny, Jumper. Mary Janes are shoes. On paper, none of these words are near as bad-wordy to young ears as, say, Amy Winehouse’s “fuckery”. (One of your personal favorites.) Difference is, that word is clear and blatant in its design. Nothing tricky about it; it looks you in the face. You can refrain from saying it in her presence, or at least say it with intention, indoctrinating the poetry of a well-placed curse word. 


Rodriguez’s lyrics, however, are concepts—the sum is greater than the whole of its parts—way too big for her young brain to understand. You are much more keen to this kind of verbiage because it is less obvious, can sift through the finer webbing. Words that mean other words, phrases that mean other things. 

As you pull up the tub-mat, a dozen tiny suction-pops like a cascade of quick, tiny explosions then done—you start to feel philosophical: There is no way around it. You teach, you love, you model the best you can most of the time. But there will always be the shit in the periphery—the un-noticed song lyrics, overheard conversations that you are or aren't aware of. Passive teachings are constantly falling willy-nilly from the sky, seeds scattered onto her young-girl mind as if by tiny little cloud-parachutes from the Cottonwood trees. 

Therein lies one of the oh-so-many predicaments of parenting. Even the most mindful parents can't control everything that gets planted in their child's developing brain. But they can be somewhat aware of it. They can (and damn well should) plant their own seeds and bulbs and saplings in there as well, to keep it all in balance as things grow and take root.

Sort-of epilogue: Now, as you write this you can hear Ruth upstairs, laughingly referring to one of her toys as "anal." (Source: you mentioned that your dog was having anal leakage to her sister. Yuck.) And you are suddenly deeply curious what out-of-the-mouths-of-babes commentary little Ruth will offer up once Kindergarten begins and she has a brand new, fresh-faced (masked or not) audience. What other seeds are germinating even as we speak? 



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