My daughter balances me out. Oh don’t tell her I said so, and on my blog no less, but she does. Many times I forget this myself. I am too busy in mother mode, which, as any parent will contest, requires a tight leash at times. She can be a handful because she is so damn smart (and now you nod and you say, ‘here goes another mother about to bore me to death with her daughter’s attributes, if she could she’d pull out the video, no wait, she’s going to attach a YouTube link of The Daughter performing “You Light Up My Life” on the piano. Just wait. I know it is coming.) I mean, yes, she whips out a mean version of her own music on our dusty keyboard (inventing music is always more intriguing than following sheet music to her), but I won’t subject you to that. I was an aunt for many more years before I was a mom, so I know about endless VHS performances. (Note: apologies to all my wonderful nieces and nephews, whom I adore and am endlessly proud of.)
It’s this kindness in Dani that both balances me out and unsettles me. Yes. You read right. Unsettles me. Most likely because it is so foreign to me. Don’t get me wrong; I am not a total bitch. Just partial. And more so if I haven’t had coffee. Or my morning orange juice. Or my eight hours of sleep. And then of course if I am interrupted. At any time. In the middle of anything. And endless coughing. Don’t get me started on how I respond to that.
But Daniela, she’s a whole other story. It starts in those eyes. They are huge and soft almonds lined with incredibly thick eyelashes. And when you look inside them, you aren’t quite sure what color they are- a mixture of honeycomb and caramel on sunny days, sometimes a temperamental green, other times they are pools of rich dark chocolate. They seem to have a mind of their own.
Which leads me back to the difficult part and the unsettling part because if you saw them in action you’d never forget them. They’d enchant you as they have me, and I am not saying this as her mother but as her prey, because alongside the eyes comes that old soul that is Daniela and when that soul and those eyes get together you are inevitably sucked into a whirlpool of goodness, no matter what. This child, at two, insisted with the librarian at storybook time that she give her two cookies, no not two for her, but one for her and an extra for her aunt who was sitting way in the back and most definitely wanted a cookie. The librarian didn’t understand this feisty little girl and kept repeating to her that every child gets one cookie, but she hadn’t contended with Dani’s strong will until that point and that tiny toddler stood firm on her ground and insisted for two two two until she made it clear that she needed the extra one for someone else. And, yes, she got it.
Three years later these same eyes softened and changed as they absorbed horrible scenes on the evening news of schoolchildren stranded because of a devastating tsunami many many worlds away from her safe, manicured suburb in the United States. The empathy that filled her eyes compelled her to do something and that steadfast stubborn will sprout itself anew and she insisted insisted insisted she needed to raise money for the Tsunami victims and she did, by golly she did, selling cupcakes she had made on the streets of Plantation, a determined five-year old stopping cars and stating her case. That kind, stubborn creature made all vehicles stop and give, much more than she even cared ask for people gave and gave and gave and she turned around and gave it all to the Red Cross without a doubt in the world that things were better now.
When the earthquake struck Haiti I knew my bitchiness was doomed. Images flooded the news and personal stories trickled into our lives: there was Clarice, the girl in her class who couldn’t find her grandmother, Charles our Handyman who’d lost track of his brother and all his family, orphans being flown into Jackson Memorial Hospital, right here in Miami. It was too horrible, too real, and too close and Daniela’s eyes began to grow restless. I knew something was coming and I welcomed it. She insisted on baking, because this is how we heal in our house: a pot roast for a family reunion, chicken soup for a sick friend; so she would bake carrot muffins to raise money for the victims in Haiti. She did it all, stirring, measuring, sifting, her eyes narrowed into a deep focus and that stubborn will propelled forward. Amongst clouds of flour and cinnamon she moved and I was proud and honored to be beside her, a willing audience and participant of this amazing deed and inspiring human being, all of age ten. I wondered what was in store for her. What the world was in store for with her in it. And by being around her, being connected to this, a part of it rubs off me and I am in a better place now too, even without the morning coffee and the extra hours of sleep, I am in a better place, piggybacking my way to heaven on Daniela’s good will because that kindness that is so her calms me, settles me, shows me that in all this tragedy there are good people and the world can be a better place. With Dani, it’s a start.
Come out and support Dani as she sells her carrot muffins, this Saturday, January 23, at Central Park’s Aquatic Center from 9:00-11:00. All proceeds go to The American Red Cross!
Carrot Mini Muffins
adapted from Kosher By Design, Kids in the Kitchen by Susie Fishbein
1 cup sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup canola oil
12 ounces baby food carrots
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
2 large eggs
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Add all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat on low for 30 seconds.
Beat on high speed for 3 minutes, until batter is smooth.
Line mini muffin tins with muffin cups. Pour batter 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Makes 36 mini muffins.