There were papers strewn about the table, the aftermath of our after school “Mom, look at this” dance. By now Avery is skiing with Sean and Finley is suited up in pjs watching a show; her homework long since done.

“Ok, B, what’ve we got left,” I ask her.

“Well, I have two math sheets and spelling. Oh, and a little reading.” My shoulders slump a little. Math. I struggle to keep my own insecurity and frustration at bay, on top of simply trying to understand the mechanics of it all. Somehow, though not without tears, we finish the two sheets. Then it’s on to spelling. Briar sits hunched over the table, her legs impossibly braided together in a flat tangle. Her glasses slide down her nose and her hair tickles at her face, every so often she adjusts both to little effect.

I wash the dishes as she quietly works. Finley bounces on her chair, a red flannel blur beyond Briar’s form. “You doing ok?” I ask. Finley bleats, “Me? I’m fine. F-I-N-E, fine. Fine is almost like Finley, but ‘cept Finley is F-I-N-L-E-Y and fine is F-I-N-E. So, yes, Finley is fine.” Briar’s head pops up, amused. She turns to me, “So I have one left, what should I do?”

I cross to her and look at the list of 24 words—




“Which one do you struggle with spelling the right way? I think a good idea would be to use that. Analyze?” I wait.

“No, analyze is totally easy. I’ve got that one down. What about idolize?” She looks up at me.


“But what does it mean?”

“Hmm, idolize. Well, it’s kind of like if someone young wants to be a singer, they might idolize Taylor Swift. It’s having someone in your mind who you think is great—they sing great, or they are very smart, talented, funny. Whatever it is that they do, you sort of think that they do it the best, or in the way that you like most if you idolize them.”

Oh, ok. Could I do you?” She smiles sweetly.

Little pin pricks hit the inside of my nose and my throat tightens. It seems so predictable and sugary sweet, she idolizes me. I would never have guessed that this is what she’d say, but it gives me the happiest butterflies. I get my emotions in check and say, “Sure, of course. Now, what would you say, I mean what are reasons to list for idolizing me?”

Her face is bright, a smile reaching from one pink ear to the other. Her blues eyes flash and she leans in to me: I lean into her, a smile on my face too.

“Oh, no mom. Not idolize you. I meant who do you idolize and why?”

Wincing away the burn in my cheeks I say, “Anna Quindlen.”

“Why? Who is she?” Her pencil waits in the air. I explain Quindlen’s writing and the emotion she pulls from people. Briar begins to write. Her interest in my writing lately makes me wonder if she’ll draw a parallel, that is more likely.

“Cool, thanks.” She sets her pencil down and pushes out from the table.

“Can I watch the show with Fin and read before bed?” I say sure.

I may not be her idol, but she sure as heck is a great source of material.