I caught my daughter last night…doing her homework. Though, this is not unusual, as she does homework continually. So, when I say I caught her, I mean I observed her from across the room, the living room, where the three of us were sitting. The television was on, which doesn’t interfere with her focus, anymore than an athlete is disturbed by crowd noise. She had no idea I was looking at her.
A director in the theater once remarked, “If you want to see what concentration looks like, watch animals.” Within animals there is no sub-text, no ambiguous behavior. To hold a piece of meat above a dog, or notice a cat spying a bird is to see pure intention. Kid was likewise absorbed in reading and making notes in a spiral pad. Content, engaged, applied. There was a noted calmness, an absence of frown in her face or fidget in her manner. Like a cobbler, or a watchmaker at task, she was assured, even, contented. I won’t say she is never without dread or confusion, because she is learning new and complex material. But, she seems to embrace all this, not fight or flee it, and never gives up.
She has become a role model for me. Kid gets home from a full day at school and starts in doing homework. I calculate she is putting in, minimum, 14 to 16 hours a day. Weekends, too. It has made me gripe less and become more productive and diligent, whether in my job, or, gawd forbid, around the house. Real homework, you might say. I have never proven to be the handiest of men and I kick when pressed to do such things. I’d rather be cooking. (This is very much the way Kid is when asked to clean her room. But, we don’t give her chores or duties around the house. As we see it, she’s doing what needs to be done.) I suspect I could almost be considered a bit of a workaholic for the amount of time put into my job. But, we don’t look at Kid and say, “Wow, she’s a seventeen year old workaholic.” She is applying herself, really applying herself, to accomplishing what she deems important. There is a level of competitiveness in it, she gets a rise out of where she sits in the score of things, but it seems a healthy dose. She is proud of the grades she’s accumulated. (I won’t mention specifically because I don’t want to jinx her – like mentioning a no-hitter in the dugout.) Seeing her go through these gargantuan assignments and come out of it…enriched…is wondrous.
But, this is what I observed. What I saw, what I caught, was a young and pretty girl. There is never enough light when she studies, but what light there was gave the room an ivory flush, and the television provided a fire-like flicker. As my Darling likes to say, Kid discovered her curls during her year in France, and that night armfuls of cinnamon hair escaped a pile and bounced to her shoulders. Some of her height comes from her neck, which those Slinky curls accentuated. The clavicle, too seldom celebrated for its ornamentality, made Calder-like, the swing of her arms, the twist of shoulders, and the capering hands. Long pale legs curled and flexed beneath her. There she sat, remote and occupied with biology, while beauty echoed in bone shadows and hue of youth.
The end of daylight saving will give her an hour more to finish her paper.