Every once in a while, a reader will ask about my daughter Sally. For three years she wrote a monthly column for these newspapers called “Teens” and they miss catching up on her. Her column took us on a journey back into time, looking through the eyes of a young girl.
We learned about her obsession for a 16-year-old rock star from Australia and about leaving temporary dye in her hair too long and turning it strange colors. She wrote about how she would design her room if her mother would let her, about wearing wide-leg jeans and about what really goes on at those teen parties. She had a wicked, dry sense of humor.
Sally had years ago given up any interest in playing sports, even though she could hit any ball thrown in her direction. Four years ago, she had a brief but brilliant career as an artist. Before she turned in her paintbrushes, she painted two canvasses that still hang in my living room – and designed the logo for our first paper, Atlanta 30306.
So last year when she said she wanted to retire from the column-writing business, I was disappointed but not too surprised.
Those who are close to Sally know one thing: she wants to be in control. This probably dates to her lengthy stay in the womb. She was due to be born during the full moon in October, but she wasn’t born until the full moon in November. That waiting period must have driven her crazy and ever since, she’s been in a hurry to grow up and hell-bent to control her environment.
Without her permission, family members in her presence are not allowed to sing the words to a song on the radio, chew too loudly, wear a cap in a restaurant or participate in a conversation she’s not privy to. She’s been subject to many of the ups and downs of girls her age: grade fluctuation, friend obsession and battles with her parents. She is engaged in a constant battle now with her mother, which I remind them both is common for this age.
But in the past year, I’ve noticed a change. She has gained enough confidence to begin wearing shorts or skirts. The baggy sweaters have given way to better fitting ones. She spends a few minutes applying makeup before we go out. She looks beautiful, has one of the most captivating smiles I’ve seen and is showing it a little more each day.
Although she attends a magnet school for the arts, she resists being forced to produce art. But recently, she picked up a birdhouse at home and painted a beautiful landscape on one side. And I’m hoping she’ll write a column again one day.
She just turned 16 and I’m sure the battles with her mom will cease in another year or two. Sally admits she may one day name her first daughter after her. They will probably end up best friends.
I like taking her out to dinner and hearing about what goes on in her life. She has learned to trust me with the truth. I love it when we exchange, “I love you’s.”
She has a few hurdles yet to go in life, including dealing with those boyfriends. Wherever Sally ends up, I know she will get there according to her own road map and at her own speed. I pretend to be driving but I’m just happy to be along for the ride. I just have to remember not to make a noise when I chew or sing. But she’s worth it.
Photos: Sally Schroder with next door neighbor, Jessie Perlik, hitting the ball in our Charlotte backyard, with me and Thomas at Christmas in Atlanta