In the past couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about celebrity and genius and extraordinary talent. The thoughts I’ve been pondering make me realize how blessed I am to have the wonderful daughters I have, and how glad I am they are less-than-extraordinary.
As their mother, I know these girls I’m raising are extraordinary creatures who shock and awe me everyday. Each time they find solutions to problems on their own I am pleased as punch and shocked at their abilities. I watch them grow as individuals and stretch into their independence, happy and sad that they don’t need me so much. I believe, because of all this, that they are extraordinary.
But really they are just regular kids, and I know this as well. And this relieves me beyond belief.
I’ve known extraordinary people: athletes, artists, and academics. And true genius seems like a difficult tightrope walk in life, a tough balance between expectations and reality.
I’ve been thinking these thoughts as I thought about a girl I knew from my hometown who died a couple of weeks ago. I knew her; I can’t say I knew her well, but I knew her as more than acquaintances at one time in life. Her sister and I were friends for awhile, and her brother was always around our group. The whole clan was a little larger than life with huge personalities and a lot of charisma.
But their younger sister was the star. She could sing, she was beautifully cute. Her smile lit up a room. She could act, she could project, and she wanted it. She loved it. She wanted fame, and she got it, if only for a brief period of time.
And then it was gone, sort of. Parts seemed to dry up, and her stardom dwindled. I’m not sure where her life went bad; if it was the loss of something she loved, the loss the an audience that she craved, or just addiction issues. It really doesn’t matter; she had a tough time for a few years. That beautiful girl started down a bad path, and many will remember her for that, but that’s not the whole and substance of what she was, and that’s not what I (and many others) will remember of her.
It seemed like she had found some peace in the last few years. Because of family love and her (and her family’s) faith, she was finding some ground to stand on.
Here death though, and her life, made me think about my girls and how glad I am for their ordinariness. I’m glad my girls are who they are. Libby is a watcher. She’s a good student, above average, but she’s not brilliant. She’s a good athlete, a hard worker, but she’s not a natural. She’s a good singer, and she loves it, but she’s not a shining star.
Katy is a shining star in her head, and she is a celebrity in our town, but she’s pretty much just a ham who loves the attention. Her life balances out in different ways, because there are so many things that are really difficult for her.
All that is okay with me. I’ve seen what happens to those bright stars. They burn out. They have addiction problems or other mental health issues. They’re given the world early, and it’s hard to come down from that. They’re told forever that they’re special, and when they realize there are others that are just as or more special, it’s really difficult.
Or, worst off all, everything comes so easy that they don’t know the value of hard work. And then, when hard work is required, they’re not willing. They fall back on what comes easy, and don’t want to put forth the effort for those things that require effort, and those things are the sweetest victories. Knowing that they have to work hard for things they REALLY want at a young age makes me feel like they will be willing and able to do those difficult things later in adulthood.
I remember talking in a literature class about how no one really wants to be the mother of a hero. The risk their lives constantly and they have dangerous enemies, not to mention that they often die young. What mother in her right mind would want their child to be a hero?!
I feel the same about the truly extraordinarily talented child. Even if they are that child with a good head on their shoulders, normal childhoods are taken away in pursuit of their talents. I think about athletes that reach the top, only to do something done to tarnish their reputations in the public eye.
So I’ll be happy that my girls are only extraordinary to me and those that love them. I’ll be happy that their pretty much normal kids in their own right (yes, my younger daughter has special needs, but I still consider her life ‘normal’). I’ll be happy that they have to work hard for their moments of excellence.
I’m happy for the ordinary for my girls, because ordinary creates the kind of everyday, even-keeled happiness for which we all strive. Ordinary, all by itself, is extraordinary.
And now, onto an extraordinarily ordinary family in Wendy Francis’s The Summer of Good Intentions.
For the Herington sisters and their families, summers mean a return to their Cape Cod beach house and a chance to relax and regroup, finding peace in the ebb and flow of the ocean and the inhabitants of the house. But can the family withstand a summer of change without crumbling?
The three Herington sisters are used to their family beach house and what summer means there. Holding onto their relegated roles in the family, the girls are hoping for a summer that will bring them the needed peace in their lives.
Maggie, the oldest daughter, relishes her role as the organizer of the family, making lists and ensuring the house is ready for the return of the entire family. Her parent’s divorce has been harder for her than she’s willing to admit, and she hates that her children are growing older. What will life hold in store for her now that they’re all in school.
Maggie’s twin sister Jess, younger by minutes, is having trouble of her own. Her marriage seems to have stumbled, and her near infidelity doesn’t help. Can she get her marriage back on track, or is it too late?
The younger sister, Virgie, is the career woman of the family. Living on the West Coast, Virgie is finding it hard to push through to the next level of her broadcasting career. Finally finding what she thinks may be love, this vacation couldn’t come at a better time for her; time to re-evaluate her career and ensure her feelings are real.
When their mother arrives at the house a week early with her new boyfriend, their father and the whole family dynamic is shaken. Add in health issues and surprises, the summer all had planned is turned upside down. Can the family recover and come out stronger? That’s the question.
Fun and interesting, The Summer of Good Intentions is good in a chick-lit, beach read kind of way. The characters are likable and well developed, if more than a little predictable.
I liked The Summer of Good Intentions; it’s not deep literature, it’s not hugely thought provoking. But it is a page-turner, and it is a great story of family and love. I give it a solid three stars.