For some reason, most members of our family seem to have been born in the last half of the year—the months between August and December—with a bunch of us clustered in October. It should come as no surprise that Rachel, my youngest little fireball, would choose to stand apart from the crowd.
She’s been doing that since the day she was born 19 years ago, when she unceremoniously decided that breast-feeding was not her thing. She wouldn’t be persuaded: not by me, not by the hospital nurses, not by our midwives, not by the lactation consultant.
At the ripe age of one day old, she clamped her tiny lips shut, squinted her eyes in displeasure, and turned her face resolutely away from my breast. And she kept it turned away, never once relenting.
Not that I was bitter. (But I did decide, right then and there, that her choice would have consequences. To whit, I reserved the right to reject her first three husband choices. I told her this, and it didn’t change her mind, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s a binding contract.)
Rachel has always steered her own compass path, as our dad used to say.
When she was two years old, she decided she was an artist. To her, this meant getting up in the middle of the night to paint at her child-sized easel (courtesy of IKEA—probably the best thing we ever bought there). I’d come into her room in the morning and find her covered in paint, wearing her winter boots (don’t ask), fast asleep in bed.
Just in case you were wondering…I AM an artist.
And it’s thanks to Rachel that I acquired my life-long dread of glitter glue—after some brilliant soul decided that the noxious substance would make an excellent gift for our budding young artist. Years later, I was still finding globs of the stuff in the most unlikely places.
Rachel has always had a strong sense of her own dignity. When we’d chuckle at her childish foibles, she’d draw herself up to her full height, glare at us with those bright blue eyes, and command, “Don’t laugh at me!”
Once, I tried to explain that we weren’t exactly laughing at her, but kind of…with her. Sort of. (How do you explain to a kid that you’re chuckling because they just called a magazine a “maza-geen”?) To which she replied, “But I’m not laughing.” End of story.
Why yes, I did choose my own outfit. Why do you ask?
Another time, we stopped to watch a guy painting a mural inside a local mall. Rachel stared as he dipped his brush, drawing it along the wall to create flowers, bushes, trees. Noticing her interest, he smiled kindly, and asked if she liked painting. She said she did.
“Well,” said the painter, “maybe one day when you grow up, you’ll become an artist!”
Rachel fixed him with her most withering stare. “I already am an artist,” she said. Really, the presumption of some people!
The first few years of school were a bit of a struggle for our little artistic free thinker, but in Grade 4 she began to attend Lady Evelyn Alternative School—where, we’d been warned, the kids danced on the desks and she’d learn nothing—and suddenly, Rachel began to bloom, both socially and academically.
At Lady Evelyn, the little girl who couldn’t focus long enough to complete her math homework morphed into a capable, determined, focused young woman who wasn’t afraid of any challenge. In fact, her teachers learned that the best way to spur her onward was to suggest that her idea might not work.
By Grade 8, she’d not only reached the top of her class, but she’d won her middle school’s top honours at their science fair…and she’d gone on to win Gold in the Ottawa Regionals, followed by Honourable Mention at the Canada-Wide Science Fair. Yes, that is a big deal.
Her response to all this glory? “Great. I just got a prize that says I’m the biggest geek in my school.”
Rachel with her winning project…the culmination of months of hard work. The project her science teacher told her “probably wouldn’t fly.”
But somehow, being different has never really fazed our girl.
In Grade 9, she was introduced to the womanly art of woodworking, and suddenly she was totally fascinated with power tools, grain, splines, dovetails, inlays….I suspect the school authorities might have balked if they’d known she kept an electric reciprocating saw in her locker for several months (“But I might need it!”), but by Grade 10, she’d started winning prizes for her innovative, technically challenging projects, and she’d started thinking about her future as a furniture designer.
The Philosopher’s Bookshelf in progress–it won Youth and Jury’s Choice awards at the Wood Show
Power tools are where it’s at, man.
“Furniture design” morphed into “interior architectural design,” and these days you’ll find Rachel hard at work in the Interior Design program at Humber College. According to one of her professors, she still “rises above” the class”…but that shouldn’t surprise anyone who knows her.
She’s always been that way. Stubborn, determined, smart, talented, contrary, beautiful, funny, loving, and never afraid to challenge the status quo.
Oh, did I mention she’s also gorgeous?
Now that we’ve unleashed her on the world, I have only one piece of advice: stand back!
Rachel is a true force of nature, and I’m so utterly proud to be her mother.