My daughter Veronica, second grader, is telling me what she wants to be when she grows up.
“I’m going to be an artist.” I nod knowingly. I think of Patti Smith whose memoir I just finished. “Well,” I tell her, “you’ll have to work very hard.” I check the rearview. She registers all this with an intense look out the window. She is, I think, well on her way. Then she pipes up,
“Jerry is going to be an artist too.” Jerry. I have heard this name before. When I asked her why she was lugging The Invention Of Hugo Cabret (544 pages, 2.7 lbs) around in her backpack. “Jerry and I like to read it.” I smiled and looked away. Veronica is extremely squeamish about romantic relations, a state I wish to preserve until… adulthood, I guess. I tread lightly.
“So tell me more about this Jerry. What does he look like?”
“Well, he’s Jewish.” Pause. “But he doesn’t wear one of those little hats on his head. He just can’t eat certain foods.”
“Like pork?” I offer.
” No. Like kiwis becuase Jews don’t eat kiwis because they aren’t grown around here. So like if we eat kiwi in class, he just has a little.” This sentence is so densely packed with mind-blowing information, I’m not sure where to start.
“Are you sure his parents aren’t locavores?”
She sighs. “No they are Jewish. And he is, like, partially bald.” What?
“Is Jerry an adult?” I ask, startled.
“No mom. He’s a kid. He sits next to me”
“Then why is he partially bald? Do you mean he has very short hair?”
“Yeah his hair is really short.” Despite her concession, I still picture a seven year old with male pattern baldness, maybe a comb-over.
“He and I draw together.” I recall a stack of baby animal drawings she showed me yesterday, and mention them. “Yeah, but Jerry draws mostly superheroes.”
“Hmm. So did you make him a special valentine?”
“No. I just wrote ‘you’re funny’ because sometimes he is. And I also said ‘you’re cool’. I’m probably going to make a book about baby animals when I grow up.”
I look back at her again, her thin blonde hair parted in the center, glasses, one adult tooth descending slowly from her upper gum. If she and this prematurely balding Jerry kid grow up to be funny and cool artists, and read books and make books about baby animals and superheroes, I think I can live with that. As much as I can stand her growing up at all.