Effortlessly, they became her best friends.
In a year nearly free of peer interactions, she needed them. In a year of new and strange and awkward, she needed to feel less alone.
And they were there.
Amber and Mollie and Madison and Abby and Arriana and Madison and Alyssa and Dakota and Sareena and Rebecca and Madison and Kyra and Ashley. Plus a few more Madisons, Dakotas, and maybe a random Cody or two. No matter the name, they were there for our Girl, providing her with the tween companionship she lacked in Turkey.
When we left the States, she had three or four editions of Discovery Girls magazine in her possession; she’d only recently become aware of this publication (“Created by girls, for girls”) and hadn’t had time to accrue a larger stash. As the isolation of our expatriate lives set in, she spent more and more time leafing through the pages of those issues. She memorized entire passages of text and would challenge me to figure out which girls featured in each issue were her most admired. Because each issue features twelve girls from a showcased state, I had only to winnow out nine or ten of the profiled girls to land on Girl’s favorites. Often, she liked the ones who looked most like her; more often, she liked the ones who shared her interests–who seemed most likely to be her friends in real life. As I scanned the twelve girls, trying to hit on Girl’s exact favorite, and I read about, say, young Sarah who “likes reading, chocolate, soccer, and hanging out with friends,” then I could easily see the similarity and won the “Gosh, Mom, I can’t believe you chose the right one!” award.
The hours she spent with her Discovery Girl friends gave her balance, excitement, courage–all things she needed to weather life in a foreign, dusty village. Shored up by her friends, our Girl greeted the entire year in Turkey with a matter-of-fact positivism. She was a champ.
Thus, after a few months–right around when she got comfortable with letting us hand her a 20 lira note so that she could run up to the grocer and get a few items off the shopping list–when she announced somewhat dolefully, somewhat mournfully, that she’d been watching eBay for auctions on back issues of DG and that there was a lot of 22 issues currently open for bidding
and that it was the only thing she wanted for her birthday, for turning 11 in a country where she couldn’t speak to anyone or have a giggle with a girl her same height,
Although international shipping to Turkey wasn’t an option for this auction,
the will always finds a way, doesn’t it?
Faced with a lonely daughter who only wanted new reading material chock full of comforting images and words, I went manic-eBay and won that lot. I had it sent to our great pal, Kirsten, who would hang on to the stack of past issues until we could get them into our daughter’s hands.
As it turned out, Kirsten ended up flying me to London a few weeks before Girl’s birthday. I went there to surprise Kirsten’s wife, Virginia. Kirsten and Virginia were on a Spring Break trip with a group of people from their community. Once she had all the pieces of our travel in place, Kirsten announced, with the generosity that defines her, “I’ve got a bunch of folks on the tour lined up to each take a couple issues of Discovery Girls in their bags; that way, no one has to carry a lot of pounds, but we can get all 22 issues across the pond. Bring an empty suitcase. What with the magazines and all the Twizzlers and American Delights I’m bringing you, you’re going to need it.”
Ultimately, Kirsten and Virginia were able to get all the magazines in their own baggage (“I just pulled out some of the clothes I was going to bring, and then they all fit!”). Not knowing I would be in London, Virginia was under the impression that the magazines would be mailed to Turkey from London. In addition to her generous heart, Kirsten is skilled at weaving a cockamamie tale into something believeable.
So I went to London. I felt the love. I got the magazines. I flew back to Turkey. I hid them away (thank you, Greeks, for carving all those convenient alcoves).
Here’s what the reveal looked like on Girl’s 11th birthday:
…completely worth all those late-night bids.
As well, every visitor who came to Turkey during the year brought Girl the issue currently for sale. Her grandparents promised her a subscription upon our return to the U.S. By the time we headed onto the planes that wended our way home, from Kayseri to Istanbul to Chicago to Minneapolis, Girl carried approximately 30 issues of Discovery Girl in her backpack, from shuttle down concourse to under-seat storage. There was no way her best friends could have been relegated to checked baggage. She needed them near.
Before our time in Turkey was over, though, when her obsession had moved into its “slow burn” phase, Girl wrote a homeschool persuasive essay (I was trying to pound the standard five-paragraph format into her). She chose her own topic.
Discovery Girls magazine was started in 2000 around a kitchen table with 12 girls brainstorming ideas. Now it has almost a million readers. It started in Fall 2000. Now DG is nation wide and it can be found everywhere in North America. What is included in DG is “Ask Ali,”which is an advice column, embarrassing moments, quizzes, polls, true stories, fashion, and the most exciting thing they do is every two months they have a “Next Stop” announcement which lets readers know which state they are going to visit next. In the next stop state they pick twelve girls who submit the most creative questionnaires. DG has accomplished so many states like Georgia, South Carolina, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Wisconsin, Tennessee, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia, California, Arizona, Massachusetts, Oregon, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Kansas, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and so many more. Because it’s my favorite magazine, I should be chosen to be one of the girls in Discovery Girls magazine.
The first reason why I would like to be in Discovery Girls is that I would make eleven new friends from around my state. Two of the girls from the New Jersey issue said that they became very close friends, and everybody who was chosen to be in DG said it was a great experience to make new friends. The New Jersey girls Catherine and Maria interviewed each other. One girl named Blake from Kansas said, “I applied because I thought it would be an amazing opportunity to make new friends and to be in a magazine.” If I were chosen to be in DG, I am sure that I would make a group of friends that would last a long time.
The second reason why I would like to be in the magazine is that I would get to participate in a special activity and be in a photo shoot with all of my new friends. For the special activity, some examples that other states have done are: Kansas had a Halloween party, New Hampshire had a spa day, Nevada had a sleepover, New York made and decorated cupcakes. I think that if Discovery Girls came to Minnesota, the fun day should be exploring the Mall of America! In the photo shoots, they first fix the girls’ hair up so they look nice for their profile photos. For their cover shots, DG has the clothes picked out, but for each girl’s profile shot it’s all up to her. In a profile it states some of these things: Dream Job, Hobbies, Friends Describe Me As, Prized Possession, My style Is, Favorite Food, Favorite Music, Fun Fact, Favorite Color. For each girl’s cover shot, she does it with one other girl, but only one of the shots gets on the main issue, and a different one gets on the Middle School Edition issue. During the photo shoots they dance to cool music and get a ton of pictures taken of them.
The last reason I want to be a Discovery Girl is because I would get to contribute to the contents of the magazine. The Discovery Girls help write the stories, and they will model for articles. For stories they didn’t write, they will model for them, and DG has a section called “Matters of the Heart” where girls can contribute, and two girls from that issue have their advice and input about that topic contributed. There is another section called “The Great Debate” where two girls have their input featured. Also for articles readers send in, that issue’s Discovery Girls will model for them, and that issue’s Discovery Girls will come up with the quizzes, polls, and other fun activities. DG’s saying is “Created by Girls, For Girls,” and I think I would have lots of good ideas to contribute.
Overall, I really want to be a Discovery Girl before I turn thirteen because I would make new friends, I would get to participate in a special activity and be in a photo shoot, and I would get to contribute to the contents of the magazine. This is why I am checking every day to see if they have a next stop announcement for Minnesota.
You know where I’m going with this, right?
In early November 2011, Discovery Girls announced its Next Stop locations (the magazine announces three places, all in the same region, as a single Next Stop). There was Wisconsin. There was Ontario. There was
I learned of this announcement from a quick skittering of feet followed by a breathless “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!”
When your daughter is in middle school, “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!” only comes out when she’s so possessed by genuine emotion that she forgets to overlay cool attitude and tone it down into a vaguely condescending “Oh, Mother.”
So, yes, DG is coming to our state. There was a series of questions for which she needed to write up essay answers. She needed to submit three photographs (full body, waist-up, and head). She had about two weeks to get her application in. This was no problem, as the Girl who only wants running shoes and office supplies for Christmas knows how to make a plan and carry it out. She chose the weekend for us to shoot some photos of her. She chose the hairstyles and clothes. She chose her backdrops. She set aside three days after Thanksgiving for writing up her essay responses to the online questionnaire. The last of those three days was Mommy–I’m sorry, “Mother”–Editing time, during which I tweaked her punctuation and grammar and suggested ways to beef up her answers (“You haven’t mentioned attending an international Space Camp in Turkey where you were the only native English speaker in a group of 166 kids! DG needs to know that you’re a kid who shows up and holds her own”).
A week before the final deadline, she had everything submitted.
The wait began. In so many ways, our Girl embodies what this magazine is looking for: she’s active and strong and a “complete package.” Her presence on the DG pages would not cause an exodus of tween subscribers. Her presence on the DG pages might, rather, serve as an inspiration and comfort to some girl halfway across the globe
…as we knew, from firsthand experience, could happen.
On the other hand, tossing oneself into any application process is a complete afternoon at the casino. There are winners, and there are not-winners. I know from my years of serving on search committees at colleges that a selection process is more whimsical than logical–that one person’s agenda might override everyone else’s instincts. What’s more, in the case of DG, there would be hundreds, perhaps thousands (???), of Minnesota girls applying. Trying to lay the groundwork for potential disappointment, I asked her one day, “So, although I think you’re clearly a Discovery Girl in who you are, how are you going to feel if you don’t get chosen? Are you going to be crushed?”
She looked at me with surprise. ”Mom, if I don’t get chosen, I will be so excited to see who they did choose from Minnesota.”
Have I mentioned lately that I aspire to be my daughter when I grow up?
The DG website indicated that decisions would be made and the twelve girls from Minnesota notified around December 16th. The 16th came and went. No email.
A few more days passed. The website message still read “We are currently reviewing questionnaires and selecting our Discovery Girls for this stop. Thank you to everyone who filled out a questionnaire and sent it in!”
DAY-um. Come ON.
A couple of days ago,
Byron went downstairs a bit before 7 a.m. He’s usually too busy warming up waffles and boiling water for oatmeal and coffee to turn on the computer.
It would seem the great Discovery Girl Goddess in the Sky likes Daddies, however, for she urged Byron to check the email.
Still lying in the darkness of my room, awaiting Paco’s morning visit for cuddles, I heard Byron’s methodical tread up the stairs. His voice in Girl’s room.
And then the skittering of feet down the hallway towards my room, accompanied by “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy…!!!”
She threw herself on the bed, crossways into my lap,
in the exact position I had used to nurse her for two years.
My baby was a Discovery Girl.
My baby had grown up
lived inside an abstracted dream during a time when she needed comfort
stepped outside the dream and looked at its requirements, its demands
and made that dream her reality.
The very first time I felt her move, she was inside me, and the sensation was that of a goldfish flitting around, having a particularly exhuberant swim.
Nearly twelve years later, she is separate from me, which allows her to move my insides in powerful new ways.
It’s been three days now since we received the email, congratulating Girl for being chosen as a Minnesota Discovery Girl. We called a few people right away; we told everyone within the sound of our voices. We passed on the small tidbits of information we knew: the special activity and photo shoot days will happen in a month, in Milwaukee (a central location where the magazine will set up shop for its Wisconsin, Ontario, and Minnesota issues). Amongst the adults, there has been a fair bit of squealing.
She still hasn’t told anyone at school, even her best pals. Her rational is that, “It’s embarrassing. I don’t want anyone to think I’m showing off.”
I like her so much.
For me, from the parental view, this week has surprised me on an emotional level. I knew I’d have a good cry, if Girl were chosen. That’s what I do; it’s who I am. But what I couldn’t have predicted is that I would experience an entirely new kind of joy, the likes of which I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before. The thing is, this joy is so pure. When I think of the other occasions of heightened happiness in my life, like winning a speech tournament or having a first kiss or finishing a race or getting married, they all are fraught with complexity. Mixed into the bliss of such events are pain and planning and tears and confusion. Life’s best moments of happiness are awarded that status because they aren’t easy and because they entail risk, uncertain investment, follow-through, qualms.
With this business of witnessing my child’s achievement, however, my joy is pure. There is no thinking or processing or weight to it. I am just. so. happy.
At many points in my life, I’ve been disillusioned with the universe–wanting it to be a place of justice and rightness–wanting it to reward the good and punish the bad. I know that’s simplistic thinking, but it’s also motivational thinking. It gives us a reason to try. Yet the universe doesn’t play fair, and good people get cancer while bad people live in penthouses, and Paul Wellstone dies in a plane crash while Rod Blagojevich retains a full head of hair,
and sometimes it’s a little disheartening.
But then this really great kid gets her most fervent wish granted,
which, in the scope of things is small, inconsequential, of no matter–
yet for a few of us, it’s evidence that sometimes the universe gets things right.
It’s evidence that we should keep trying
because the reward of pure joy
Wishing you unadulterated joy this holiday season!