Not every girl has a Thursday night babysitting job where she is greeted at the door by a five year old dressed in Darth Vader PJ’s. He waits for me. I arrive at six and walk past the porch. The light flashes on. He runs to the door, rips it open, and stands there for me to comment on his outfit. Sometimes he wears his lightsaber jammies and sometimes his all black ones with the little buttons on the front, but always with Darth Vader socks and a Star Wars Lego man clutched in his fist.
Sometimes we spend hours waxing a piece of paper with black crayons. Other times I pull out paint (of course black paint), and at times when either I am most lazy or he is most energetic, we lie on the floor in fits of giggles laughing about nothing and laughing at everything. He indoctrinates me in the ways of the force. Though he expects a fast learner, and I am not one. He has high expectations, and I do my best but he knows I am weak, a young, inexperienced Jedi in the ways of the force, so we watch the pros do it on television. Once I asked my young master about the ways of the force and who played the significant roles on the good and dark sides. He scolded me for asking, and I never asked again.
And so I decide to lie back against the pillows with a bowl of popcorn on my stomach and three eager hands dipping in and out of it, one mine the other two of my master, Lord Darth Vader Sam. we shove fistfuls of popcorn into our mouths like starving creatures. I don’t often meet other beings on this planet, we call earth, who enjoy the salty, snappy, sizzle of popcorn as much as I do. It warms my heart to hear someone else utter the line I am always assigned. I am always the one to say it out of needy, pigginess for more deliciousness. “More please. Is there any more popcorn?” Though, like I said this time I did not utter it. I filled it twice and then thrice and on the fourth go of popcorn as the storm troopers attacked I came back to the sofa empty handed. Twice we tried in vain to watch “A New Hope.” Eight o’ clock bed time came and twice the dark side of that 24 hour day called me to acknowledge that another play day was gone, and it called Sam to his slumber-ship of blankets and pillows among the stars, but of course not without having read a book…
…well several books. Bed time hour is overseen by the family guardian, Chairman Meow, the tigress kitty. I sometimes fear she has gone completely to the dark side of existence for once I left the upstairs to allow my master to sleep. I had just nestled into an arm chair when an explosion ensued like the destruction of a star. I called to my master, yet there was no reply. I feared the worst. I peeked into his door. He slumbered undisturbed. I turned and just caught Chairman Meow beelining out of the bathroom, tail tucked between his legs and head inspecting the floor to avoid my piercing stare. I scolded vehemently knowing what chaos would lie before my eyes.” Guilt overtook him, and I let him be in order to give him a chance to repent and turn back to goodness before it was too late. I turned my attention to the disaster before me. Shattered glass filled the sink and pieces had spiraled across the floor into the dark corners where only dust bunnies and spiders socialize, though not in this house. I picked up each piece gingerly and laid the largest pieces in the palm of my hand, stacking little pieces on top. I gave one more scowl to Mr. Meow, but soon he repented and the bomb was promptly disposed of. I turned back to my book, a sappy romance, in comparison to the valor and strength of the Star Wars stories.
Sam’s preparation for entering the land of dreams lasted the duration of two large Star Wars novels. That doesn’t include the correction time. He insisted on proper pronunciation. Please, master Sam, I am only a Jedi in training, yet my master finds plenty of faults in my pronunciations of certain words and reserves no corrections. I “ROOAAAR” when I am supposed to say “RRRRRR,” and I stress the words wrong but somehow we make it through, and I close the book more exhausted than he, I on my pillow and he on his. We fold our hands and close our eyes. Bedtime prayers start. “Dear God, thank you for loving us and for this evening adventure. Thank you for books, Darth Vader PJ’s, popcorn, and movies. Most of all thank you for being the greatest Force that there ever was and is. Jesus, you are the best. Love your Jedi children Sam and Kathryn.”
For a little longer I sit there, waiting for a final command from my master. I lean against my pillow and he against me more than his own head rest. My head tips forward and from his heavy head against my body, the aroma of childhood embraces me. In that moment of remembrance, I recall the evening baths, soapy, fragrant shampoos, footy Pajamas, pigtails, and crayons. Oh the crayons! And oh the dreaded seven o’ clock bedtime! I used to imagine how it would (should) work. When I was eight it would be an eight o’ clock bedtime. When I was nine, I would go to bed at nine. When I was ten I would go to bed at ten. When I was eleven I would go to bed at eleven. When I was twelve I would go to bed at twelve…but then my seven year old brain would break down I realized I couldn’t go backward in age. But oh the freedom once I was permitted to stay up as I pleased. I soon came to appreciate the early to bed days when my schedule was not so heavily filled with “duty” and the day of play was my role in life—to explore, make my clothes dirty, tumble, climb, and not brush my hair.
I slip from his bed. His breathing is already heavy as if masked behind the mystery face of Darth Vader, but here it is an innocent breath filled with youth and sweetness like young Anakin. Slipping across the floor first to the bookshelf and then out the door, my hand follows from behind and latches the wood frame behind me. “Goodnight,” I whisper unsure he can hear, hoping he can’t, being watched by Chairman.
No. Not every girl get’s to have a date with Darth Vader every Thursday. But even more, not every day does a girl meet a fellow girls Nation sister. An hour after that magical mist of slumber settled over the house on the hill in Hartland, the masters of Lord Darth Vader, return from a night of trivia. At last a second place victory! I have done my part in contributing to the success of the team, though from home. My Jedi materials of paints, books, and crayons are gathered and the closing greetings made for the evening.
For some reason a conversation occurred and in it Girls Nation arose. One needs only to say “GN” and my mind whirls with excitement and hope for the future. “You are the future leaders of America,” we were told countless times. Though for some reason I struggled with that phrase. I am from a little state, the smallest of the Girl’s States probably, but over those nine days I learned what pride and patriotism meant. “These green hills and silver mountains are my home. They belong to me.” We may be the smallest, but we are Vermont Strong. My purpose is not to rewrite a blog on Girls Nation but to give context for the excitement I felt for meeting someone from a group so rare. We are no elite group, I must make that clear; elite, privileged few is not the correct idea to take from “Girls Nation,” but there is something in the two words that I have not identified yet that makes my heart skip a beat when I remember what I saw; rows upon rows of endless white graves, the burnt shoes in the Holocaust Museum, and the silence at the tomb of the Lost Soldier. There, there was no sound except for the rhythmic click of the guards’ shoe steps. All these memories and more come flooding back to me. Those girls from each state go back to their worlds and prepare to be the future leaders of America.
There I stood in a room with my master’s Momma who shared similar memories as I. Her life is how I envision my life seventeen years from now. And that is when I realized what a future leader means. I knew deep down that there was so much power behind that phrase that rattled in my mind, “YOU are the future leaders of America.” It seemed such a vain thing to think that way and that all the other women from Girl’s State weren’t leaders. I often forget, as I believe many political leaders and congressmen may forget, that I am representing. My title, Senator Bassette, is honorary not because of what I have done but because of what others believe me to do. I was tempted in that place of inspiration, surrounded by so many qualified women, to pursue the obvious path to leading and influencing. I sought those high places of power within our senate body, yet something tugged within me. This is not what I want, but in this year of “rest,” between high school and college, have I gained a clearer perspective on who I am as future leader. All those buried thoughts I had struggled with concerning leadership became clear in this moment before leaving my master’s house.
Here was a Girls Nationer not in politics, not on television, not practicing law, and without a public podium. Here is a mother who is changing the world one little boy at a time. Here is a stay at home mother, like my own, who has taught her son how to play and dream big. These were all things I knew because they were impressed upon my memory. I was mentored in this way of growing up from my own mother who happily washed the clothes, folded the laundry, vacuumed the house, scrubbed the windows, and taught each of us how to do this also. That was my podium of leadership growing up–doing the dishes and setting the table. I may not have been changing the world, but I was happily changing my younger siblings’ diapers. “Why,” when I had struggled with the question of what to do for the rest of my life and fretted over how I could be that future leader, “had I not gone back to my roots?” For here like my own story of growing up was a Girls Nation representative who was living how I envisioned myself in the future. Raising a family, cleaning the house in a wedding dress (why wear it once?), and being the person to encourage her own children to run for president (or become a Jedi).
In this adapting world, women have some tremendous opportunities to do great things, but the greatest job, the most difficult yet most rewarding, is not learned from behind the desk at a University. It throws women into motherhood full time. There are no paid maternity leaves. It is paid for with sweat and blood. I speak from observation. Dismiss my ethos if you will.
Of all the opportunities available to me, I seek first an education. I will lead as God calls me to lead in the land that God calls me to live. The simple string knotted on my left finger is an wedding ring of sorts which reminds me of my vows, “Lord, where you go, I will go. Where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your Father my God.” It is a daily reminder of many things among them hopes and dreams that my childhood fostered, and above all it is a commission to love all as Christ loves His bride, the church.
Goodnight, my handsome prince, Lord Darth Vader Sam. The force is with you, and to all the mothers, you have my deepest respect. Keep changing the world!