Jenna was just six when I sent her into a crowded deli to buy cold cuts.
I was expecting visitors to meet her baby sister and it was a frigid January morning I remember.
So I handed Jenna a note and a twenty and said, ‘Just give this to the man behind the counter.’
She looked at my list and said, ‘Let me practice. I want to tell the man what we want.’
‘May you please,’ she began, ‘sell me 1lb of ham, sliced very thin, 1lb of Genoa salami, sliced very thin, 1 lb. of provolone, not thin and 2 loaves of Italian bread, no seeds.’
That was Jenna, an outgoing do-it-yourselfer.
Pretty, petite, smiley and sweet, she was fearless.
I remembered that simple errand years later when she told me after college she was starting a job in the financial district and would be living in a place on Ninth Avenue near the Port Authority with an aspiring dancer who works at Starbuck’s.
‘You mean Hell’s Kitchen? That’s Grandpa’s neighborhood,’ I think I whispered, trying to hide my horror. I wondered if the roommate was nice or scary and remember feeling nauseous. But I didn’t protest or mention the potential crimes I imagined were on the nightly news from that area.
She mentioned something about hopstop.com and taking cabs at night.
I cried leaving there when I saw the apartment for the first time but I kept my sunglasses on later at the restaurant where we sat near a window close to the bus depot.
I like to tell myself that years of ‘Sure you can (s)’ and ‘Of course it will be fine(s)’ and hiding my worries so well I sometimes thought I would pass out from breathlessness, actually is what bolstered my kids' confidence. I think it helped.
Still, in Jenna's case, I think the ‘can do’ attitude from being the eldest explains the confidence she had early on, even at just a year and a half old when her brother came along. Also likely, it is innate.
The memory of Jenna’s deli errand came back this summer when she announced she’d be buying her own place in the city. Yes, she's 28, well educated and successfully employed. Of course she's buying her own place. But the economy’s sketchy, right?
So my fears came back.
And so has her fearlessness.
I said nothing but, 'That's fantastic.'
“I’m excited to have a home that’s really mine and to finally have the freedom to change something other than the paint. There’s a lot to learn as a first time home buyer,” she told me this morning when I asked her to comment for this post.
'I’m excited too,' I told her. I am.