When I was in second grade, my mother enrolled me in Brownies. Both my Grandmothers had been involved in the Girl Scouts so it seemed a natural rite of passage. I don’t have many memories of my time in Brownies, except for the Brownie song, the Brownie handbook and my uniform, complete with brown beanie. But I do remember going on a field trip with my troop to meet up with some other troops in the area. I couldn’t tell you if we met at a school or a hotel, but I do remember that there was a pool and that we had to bring our swimsuits. There were little girls EVERYWHERE.
Some of the girls were a year or two older than the girls in my troop. At the time they seemed very mature and worldly, clearly no longer needing to rely on their handbooks. Each of the younger girls were to be paired off with an older girl. It was the older girls’ responsibility to make sure we didn’t get lost (or drown). I remember that we were told to line up, facing the line of older girls. We waited in anticipation to find out who we would be paired up with. I scanned the row before me and my eyes fell on the most beautiful girl I had ever seen. She had long, thick dark hair pulled into a ponytail and huge brown eyes. Her skin was the color of coffee with lots of cream. She had a big bright smile. I had never seen a girl like this before. The girls I knew were all pale like me—awkward ugly ducklings in my mind. I silently prayed that she would be my “buddy” for the day.
To my amazement, I was partnered up with the pretty girl. Looking back, I now know she was Hispanic. I can still see little flashes of her face, but I don’t remember her name. But she treated me like a little sister. I had never been anyone’s little sister before. She took me by the hand and led me over to her troop. “This is Carol,” she beamed. When it was time to go swimming, she made sure I had my towel and everything I needed. She seemed genuinely happy to be paired with me and cheerfully chatted away about who knows what. She even complimented my hair and eyes, which I found shocking at the time. I was completely starstruck. I wanted to look like HER.
I never saw my beanie-clad buddy again, but years later, when I became pregnant with my daughter, Chloe, I flashed back to that memory. Chloe’s father is Puerto Rican with dark features. A sophomore biology lesson on the punnett square had taught me that, based on genetics, Chloe would most likely be born with brown eyes (unless her father carried a recessive blue-eyed gene, which I doubted). But hair and skin color were anyone’s guess. I remember hoping that she had nice long thick hair and skin like coffee with lots of cream. I prayed that she would get her nose from her father’s side of the family. I’m Irish, German and Italian which didn’t bode well in the nose department. I was 24 at the time and I’m embarrassed to say, these were the things that concerned me. I didn’t want her to be teased or have low self-esteem.
Chloe arrived two weeks before her due date. She’s been early ever since. She was the most beautiful baby. I know, every mother says that. But I feel like less of a jerk saying it because she looks nothing like me. She looked exactly how I pictured her to look: brown hair, big brown, twinkling eyes, coffee with lots of cream skin, and a wide smile. She possessed every trait I ever wanted. On top of that she was such a good baby. She was always happy and healthy. I was going through so much hell at the time with her father that I don’t know what I would have done had she been a difficult baby, or needed special care. I was certainly blessed. But it was like she knew that I couldn’t deal with any stress. It was like she had a mission to bring joy into my life. And that’s exactly what she did.
At around 3 years old she developed a love for all things Disney. Before I’d start cleaning, I’d pop a tape into the VCR. Snow White was one of her favorites. She’d act out every part. She wouldn’t even sit down. If Snow White was sweeping, Chloe was sweeping. If Snow White was dancing, Chloe was dancing. I tried to muffle my laughter as I watched her run to the fridge, grab an apple, bite into it and pretend to faint. Of course, it wasn’t as funny when one day I went to grab an apple for myself and every single apple in the crisper had one perfect little bite taken out of it.
A few years later, Chloe and I were living in a new apartment by ourselves. Those were good years and we had a lot of fun. She was funny and quick-witted from an early age and she had a confidence that astounded me. I didn’t know where it came from. One night right after I picked her up from her after school program she announced. “I want to do my recital dance in front of the school.” Chloe had been taking tap dancing lessons since she was 2½ years old and was pretty good, but in front of the whole school? “Who’s going to dance with you?” I asked. “Nobody. Just me.” Uh oh. I had a flash of her being on stage and the whole school laughing at her. “Um…are you sure you want to do that?” I asked nervously. “Yep,” was all she said.
The next day she asked her teacher to bring it up to the principal. Her teacher had the same concerns. “I’m sure you’re an excellent dancer, Chloe. But you know…sometimes kids this age aren’t nice.” Chloe was not deterred and a few days later an assembly was called. The entire student body was to go to the auditorium to watch Chloe dance. By herself. With no music. The day of the performance I had a client meeting that couldn’t be missed. I was sick to my stomach the whole day. The teacher had promised to let me know how it went. I’ll never forget the call from Chloe’s teacher. “You wouldn’t believe it. These kids are usually so rowdy and as soon as she started her routine, you could hear a pin drop. When she finished there were a few moments of silence and then the whole room exploded into cheers!” For the first time all day I could breathe. It never dawned on Chloe that this WOULDN’T be the outcome.
When Chloe got to high school, she was voted class president and then prom queen. She was voted most school spirited. She was everything I wasn’t, but wanted to be at that age. All those tearful hours spent in my room as a kid, wishing to be different. I had no idea that all my wishes would come true—eventually. They were simply going to come in a different form than I expected. To this day I don’t know why Chloe chose me to be her mother. But somehow, I know it was a choice. Our souls made a pact. We agreed to this journey and it’s not over yet. Someday there’ll be a wedding and babies and a thousand more memories to share. I’m so lucky I get to experience it all with my brown-eyed girl, my best friend and my biggest cheerleader. As she and I always say to one another: “All good things!!!”