I have a knack for embarrassing my children.
Like when I sing along while they listen to “Funkytown” with their friends (is it my fault 80’s music is the new retro fad?) Or when I start doing the hip-hop line-dance to Mary J. Blige’s “Just Fine” in the middle of the living room. “Ima, please stop,” is what I usually get in response. (Just for the record, my oldest daughter secretly loved the dance and had me show it to her, but she’ll never admit that to her friends.)
So I speak, sing, and dance to my heart’s delight, but invariably endure that unmistakable look of desperately seeking out the nearest rock to crawl under. Ah, motherhood.
One day they will hopefully all grow up and find me charming and endearing. I just hope I’m still lucid when that day comes.
Recently, though, the embarrassment reached new heights when I did something so mortifying that my beautiful 12-year-old daughter actually went running to the other side of the park. No, I did not regale her friends with stories of her toddlerhood or even break into my favorite rendition of “The Pirates of Penzance” “Major General Song” (which would have likely sent many mothers running as well). What did I do that was so degrading? I shrieked.
I couldn’t help myself; it just happened. Like a primordial expression of wonderment upon seeing fire for the first time, I uttered this shout of enormous glee, a loud, powerful pronouncement emerging from somewhere in my gut, a language-less expression that there is something utterly phenomenal and extraordinary in this world. I imagine many other parents would have done the same in my situation. After all, I had just watched my daughter do a flik-flak.
A flik-flak is Hebrew for a “back handspring.” It doesn’t quite have the same ring to it in English. Flik-flak is much more expressive, almost a visceral description. It’s the sound of a body flipping over itself backward and forward over and over in a line, like a slinky: flik- flak-flik-flak-flik-flak.
Oh, sure, the girls in the Olympics make it look easy. But let me tell you, to be two feet away from this lovely little creature — the same creature, mind you, who once lived inside my body, who I once held because she could not yet walk or talk never mind flip in the air — this little body practically flying in the air, well, it was just beyond anything I have ever experienced. The shriek just came.
I think it emerged from that place in my soul that wishes that I, too, could fly through the air. Of course, I can’t. I’m terribly unathletic and always have been. In my mind, however, I easily imagine myself flipping and twirling, flick-flacking my way through the heavens. And then I invariably open my eyes.
But my daughter, my God, she actually did it! The vision just swept me away in its majesty.
So my shriek may have startled her – I suppose it startled me too. But I think it reflected something deep in my sense of what it means to be a woman. It’s about the passion and desire to fly, to feel the wind rushing around my body, to be free.
Some of us may have grown up with restrictions as girls, emergent women confined by strictures and conventions not unlike those discovered by Debra Nussbaum Cohen at a recent wedding.
We were educated to be women – which means, for some of us, we were educated to serve. But our daughters … our daughters … They may yet fly.