The Reality of Olivia
I love my dinners with Harrison and Olivia. Each night we set the table, light two candles, grasp hands and have a silent meditation. We express something we are grateful for in the last twenty-four hours, and enjoy our dinner. It is a perfect way to set the day’s activities behind us, and settle into our family evening.
The conversations that ensue are often enlightening. One night Harrison and Olivia shared articles they had had read in Newsweek. I was amazed, considering I hadn’t picked up an issue from our coffee table in months. Other times we recap our days. There are the sibling spats and the kids telling me not to respond to my beeping iphone, too – all in a night’s conversation.
Tonight Harrison and I were alone, and he was in the mood to express his latest brainstorm. A filmmaker, a consumer advocate and a budding entrepreneur, he was rarely at a loss for ideas.
“Hey, mom. I have an idea for a reality show,” Harrison told me through a mouthful of turkey melt.
“Yeah? What is it?”
“It’s an Olivia reality show.”
I grinned and held my chuckle in my stomach. I thought better not to encourage him prematurely.
“Tell me about it.”
“Well, each week, we place Olivia with a different family. And we see what happens!”
“It’ll be amazing. The audience will see how each family handles the Olivia Storm!”
I know I shouldn’t have, but I couldn’t help but laugh. How would another family negotiate the ups and downs of our own little Tazmanian Devil? When she is in a room, everyone knows it. She is either scaling someone’s body until she settles in their arms – and she is eleven years old – or trying to talk someone into a piggy back ride. She is playing the electric keyboard with her hands and/or toes, or preparing a snack for the entire table. One second her belly laugh is bouncing off the plaster walls, the next it’s an ear-piercing shriek. Energetic, ethereal, loud, emotional, physical, silly, cuddly, she is a lot of girl. One moment I am sure she is destined to be an engineer, the next a rock star. I’ve entertained thoughts of stashing bail money now, while also envisioning her a poet laureate.
To encapsulate Olivia, the best I can do is offer up a visual image. I am sitting at my dinner table at Harrison’s bar mitzvah reception last May. Olivia runs up to me and asks me to dance to the slow song playing. It is the first time all night that I turn her down, finally taking a moment to talk with friends. Moments later they say, “Sally, look at your daughter.” I turn to the empty dance floor to see Olivia, in her black spaghetti-string pleated cocktail dress, dancing with the DJ, the sole dancers alone in the middle of the dance floor. They are holding hands and leaning back away from each other, arms straight and elbows locked, swaying in circles. They release one hand and create their own slow-motion spin, one direction and then the other, and return to their two-person circle. Her blonde bob is falling loose from her ponytail. Her head is tilted back, her smile pointing to the ceiling. She is wearing enormous inflatable clown shoes.
I’m not giving her up to any other household, not even for one episode. They may never give her back.