The One Hundred-and-Eighteenth Chart

February 14, 2014

By Ekta R. Garg

One day last week I told Seven to do her homework.  She spent her usual half-hour or so working and then came to me to check her work before putting her binder away.  I took her math homework and began looking at the various problems.  After a few moments the line where she wrote her name at the top of the page caught my eye.  Next to her name she’d written “R.D.” in small print and doodled something next to the letters.

“What’s that?” I asked curiously.

She grinned self-consciously.  “Nothing.”

“What is it?” I asked again.

“It’s R-D for Rainbow Dash.”

“And what’s next to it?”

“That’s her cutie mark.  I put it on all my papers.”

I smiled.  “Well, I don’t mind if you put it on other papers, but I would prefer you not do it on your homework, please.”

“Okay,” she said, still grinning as she erased it.

I’ve shared before here on Growth Chart how our girls are becoming increasingly obsessed with “My Little Pony,” so I knew this came as a result of how much the kids enjoy the show.  But I couldn’t get mad at Seven for pretending to be Rainbow Dash.  I’ve kind of done the same thing myself.

For me, though, an animated star wasn’t good enough.  I needed a flesh-and-blood person to look up to.  My object of obsession: Marcia Brady.

In my late teens and twenties I heard and read plenty of things about the shady (and, frankly, creepy) events that went on behind the scenes of “The Brady Bunch.”  But when I was just about Seven’s age—maybe a year or two older—all I knew was that Marcia Brady was a star in her life.  She had perfect hair and a perfect wardrobe; all the boys liked her, and all the girls sought her out for advice and help.  She was the oldest sister (something I felt I could identify with,) and even though I could sense the triteness in her life problems I still admired the way she handled them with ease.

I wanted to be Marcia Brady.  I wanted the smooth, silky hair and the personality and clothes everyone envied.  So in my spare time and when no one was around, I pretended to be her.

This extended to doing exactly what Seven did: writing “Marcia Brady” in various books and on my papers.  I knew I wasn’t Marcia Brady, that I wasn’t ever going to actually turn into her, but it was fun to pretend once in a while.  Being somewhat of an introvert in my childhood days, pretending to be Marcia allowed me (in my mind, anyway) to be something different.

My parents didn’t quite see it that way.  They both lectured me about “wasting time” on something as frivolous as TV show, ordering me to change the names in my books and never write Marcia’s name on my papers ever again.  Even at that young age, I felt like their reaction went kind of to the extreme.  I mean, I wasn’t going to sprout blond locks (straight ones, no less, when my hair is anything but) and blue eyes overnight.  And unless they were hiding extra siblings somewhere in our small three bedroom/two bathroom house, I wasn’t going to find myself in the semblance of the Brady household any time soon.

Besides, my dad was an engineer, not an architect.

I remembered all this last week when I saw the “R.D.” on Seven’s paper, and I didn’t smile until she looked away.  Sometimes my daughter is so much like me it feels eerie.  But this was one similarity I don’t mind curbing and encouraging by turns as the situations allows.  Everyone should have the freedom to pretend once in a while.  As a writer, I still do some version of playing pretend today when I write new characters and stories.  Who knows where Seven’s playing pretend will take her?

As long as she isn’t putting “R.D.” on tax forms.

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