A Change in Plans

By Ruthless Bunny

Andrew Landon was reading The Economist in bed while Michelle was finishing putting Evan back to bed after a late night potty visit.

"Andrew, you have got to stop giving that child water before he goes to bed. He's got a bladder the size of a peanut."  She slipped off her house shoes and got into bed with him.

"Come on Michelle, if the boy's thirsty, he's thirsty. Besides, he likes to drink it out of the folding cup.  How can I resist that?"  He smiled fondly thinking about his son's delight in playing with the cup.

"Whatever.  Is there anything good in that issue?"  She referred to his magazine.

"There's an article in here about incarceration in the United States.  Oh, that reminds me, guess who stopped by the office today?" 

"Who?"  She wasn't really a guessing game kind of woman.

"Michael Jordan MacKenzie."  Andrew laughed at his little joke.

"Oh, come on now, the boy isn't THAT bad. Although, I'm happy that Jodie won't be seeing much of him at Crestmore." 

"That's an understatement, but get this, he says that Jodie doesn't want to go to Crestmore." 

"Oh?  And where does she want to go, according to 'Mack.'?"  She said his name with derision.

"Taylor."  Andrew laughed when he said it.

"Get out!"  Michelle smacked him in the arm to emphasize her point.

"Really.  Actually, Jodie did ask me about going there, but I quelled her fears.  She's okay about Crestmore now." 

"What do you mean Jodie asked you if she could go to Taylor?"

"Apparently she wanted to follow in her old man's footsteps.  But I convinced her that she'd be better off at Crestmore.  Wow, our daughter in an Ivy League school.  Our family has come a long way."  He smiled with pride.

"Did she say why she wanted to go to Taylor?"

"Some crap about being the token African-American, wanting to be with other kids like her, you know, lots of the same stuff we've been hearing all through high school." 

"Well, she does have a point.  If we lived in Atlanta at least she'd know other kids like her.  Trust me, this relationship with Mack wouldn't even be an issue if she had other, better options."

"Look, we discussed this.  We want to give our kids more choices than we had.  If we have to sacrifice in the social interaction department, I still think we made the right decision." Andrew threw the magazine on the nightstand.

"I don't know.  Look at all the things that we had to have her do to get her away from him.  The poor thing was exhausted."

"But at least she didn't get all that serious with Mack, and that's the important thing.  He nearly gave me a heart attack today, I thought he was going to tell me she was pregnant."

"Bite your tongue!  First of all, she is too smart to screw up on that.  Secondly, our daughter is going to continue in her mother's tradition.  All of the women in my family are college educated, and that's the way it's going to stay.  I wouldn't complain if she decided to pledge Delta too, but AKA is okay.  She is going to have a great time in college."  Michelle thought about her college days at Howard.  "It would have been nice if she could have had a debut like I had though.  That's one of the drawbacks of living in Lawndale, there aren't all that many activities for us."

"Do you really think it would have made a huge difference?" 

"Well, she could have known more girls that have the same issues that she has.  For example, no one at that school can talk to her about hair, or skin or any of the other stuff that preoccupies teenagers.  She might have been more comfortable with who she is.  She's an over-achiever, and that's good, but I wish she could have had a more fulfilling social life.  Who are her good friends?"  Michelle asked her husband, who had taken to pacing around the room.

"I don't know.  That blonde cheerleader?  That arty girl?  That brainy girl?"  He was grasping at straws.

"Right, we don't even know those girls.  It's not like they sleep over, or ask her to do things with them.  It's not like we'd say yes if they did.  We have kept her on a pretty short leash."

"I just don't want them making assumptions about my daughter.  I want them to see what I see in her."

"What exactly do you see?" 

"I see a bright, beautiful, elegant young lady.  I see someone who is going to do a lot for her people.  I see someone who is a role model for other African-American kids."  Jodie, his first-born, carried all of his hopes and ambitions, for now.  Evan was years away from being able to represent the family. 

"Maybe she doesn't want to be a role-model. Maybe she just wants a chance to discover who she is and what she wants." 

"Michelle, what she wants is to go to Taylor."  He said it like Taylor was Arizona State.

"So what? It was good enough for you."

"Good enough.  Jodie is better than good enough.  She's going to Crestmore."

"Maybe we should reconsider."

"Why?"

"She's done everything we've asked of her.  All the activities, all of the volunteering, she hasn't turned anything down.  She's the valedictorian. She's made us proud.  It is her life you know.  Maybe we should let her decide."

"She decided on Mack."  He thought this would win the argument.

"Only because he was the only one to decide on."

"His father is a fireman.  His people come from...Alabama." The contempt in his voice was acid.  "I'll bet those folks aren't half country." 

"Be that as it may, would you rather see her with a white boy?"

"Oh, HELL no."

"I rest my case.  But think about this, did you do what your father wanted you to do?"

"Go into the Funeral Home with him?  No."

"But that was his ambition for you, wasn't it?"

"Well yes, but only because he didn't know what I wanted or what I was capable of."

"Right.  Think about that."

"But Crestmore guarantees her a successful future."

"Not if she feels alienated from herself.  Like it or not, we live in a society that still looks at race.  She will always be judged by other people against whatever experiences they may have had with other African-Americans.  Maybe she wants one last chance to not have her race matter.  Maybe Taylor will give her the comfort she needs to really discover who she is.  At Crestmore she'll always be trying to prove herself, not for herself, but to the other students."

"But that will be their problem, not hers."

"You know, and I know that's not true.  We know that Jodie got in because of her grades, her activities and her test scores, but every white kid is going to wonder about quotas and affirmative action."

"But...Crestmore."  Andrew tried one last time.  He also knew in his heart, that Michelle was right.

"It will always be there. If no one in our family goes, at least you know that they accepted her.  Think about it. Our daughter said no to Crestmore."

He considered it.  "Oh, alright. I never could beat you in a debate, 'counselor'."

"Remember that."  She kissed him good night. "We'll tell her tomorrow that whatever she decides is okay with us.  And with that she turned out the light.