18, No Time to Waste

Chapter Seven

   "IT SOUNDS AS THOUGH the house is falling down." I stopped in the middle of the room and listened.

   "It's just Kathi," Vern said with a smile. "She's at it again."

   Upstairs she was practicing frantically for cheerleader tryouts, and her bedroom was directly over ours. Vern didn't seem to mind, but her endless jumping bothered me, and I knew the mess it was creating. I was tired of forever picking up those little bits of paper that flew in all directions from the pompons which she shook with frantic enthusiasm.

   Now Kathi was bounding down the stairs, two at a time. Her legs, long and slender, moved gracefully under her red and white cheerleading skirt.

   "Watch me, mom! Look —" She was breathless, and her dark eyes were bright with excitement. Then she twirled and swirled in every possible position, her tiny frame one continuous vibration.

   "Is it jerky? Is it smooth? Does it look good? Is it smooth enough do you think?" She looked at me hopefully, and without waiting for my answer, she was up in the air again, her dark hair flying in every direction. I smiled in spite of myself at my second daughter, putting her whole vivacious self into tryouts.

   "I'll never make it," she sat down, suddenly discouraged. "There are so many girls trying out."

   "You'll make it," I said, and Vern echoed my words.

   "Kathi, you'll not only make the cheerleading team; you'll be head of them all," Vern encouraged her.

   She smiled at us uncertainly and went on with her practicing.

   "She's doing what comes naturally for her," I told Vern later that night. "Jumping, bouncing, smiling, cheering . . . that's Kathi."

   "Then why can't you accept her for what she is?" There was a hint of rebuke in his words, and I quickly rose to my own defense.

   "I just wish she were more like Cindy," I said with a sigh. "Cindy's so dependable and organized.. At least we know where she is all the time. Kathi's got so much going, I can't keep track of her."

   "She's just got a lot of energy, honey." Vern understood and adored our daughter, and I felt, fretfully, he was taking her side against me.

   "You can't compare them," he went on. "She is herself. And she'll not only make the cheerleading team, but she'll be head cheerleader. You'll see."

   Vern was right. Later that year Kathi was elected head cheerleader for Cleveland High, and we weren't surprised when she was voted the girl with the most school spirit. Whatever were the ingredients that made up enthusiasm, spirit, and excitement, Kathi had them all.

   Sixteen? Going on seventeen! Her friends said she was "real cool," and I knew she was popular with her peers. Her eyes, dark and shining under thick lashes, always held a ready smile for strangers as well as friends.

   "Kathi, did you make your bed?" I would call as she streaked down the stairs and out the door. It was too late, but I already knew the answer.

   "Kathi, why don't you clean your room?" Cindy, usually so even-tempered, would ask shortly.

   I'm sure we were all a puzzle to Kathi. She couldn't see what harm her own messy room could do to us. There was so much fun and excitement "out there," so much to do, so many places to go . . . no time to waste. But she would promise to really get busy and clean her room, "as soon as I get back."

   Her promises were short-lived!

   And the telephone! It became an insistent thing, especially during the dinner hour.

   "Kathi," I said finally, after I had gotten up from my dinner three times to answer it, "would you please ask your friends not to call between five and six?"

   Even Vern, who was long on patience, became agitated with her on occasion.

   "Kathi, did you park the car in the driveway like that — right in the middle?"

   But our demands and our frustrations were lost on Kathi. We were all so "uptight," and she couldn't understand why. I think she chalked it up to old age and let it go in one ear and out the other.

   Friction increased and tension mounted during those teen years, caused partly, I'm afraid, by the constant comparison I made between her and Cindy. Cindy, always the balance, always the one able to adjust, accepting and performing her duties without question, was a mother's dream.

   "I forgot; honestly I did." And Kathi's huge dark eyes would be all innocence when I scolded her. "I know I was supposed to be home, but I just forgot." When I needed her, she had just run out the door. When I wanted to use the phone, she was on the upstairs extension. When I had a list of chores for her, she was sleeping. When I wanted her to run an errand, she would take the car and forget to come home for hours.

   Kathi had anxiously awaited her sixteenth birthday and the long-anticipated trip to the Department of Motor Vehicles for her driver's test. She had taken six months of driver's training, and now she was ready. And she passed the test with flying colors. As we left, she clutched the precious piece of paper in her hand.

   "Now keep it in your wallet," I warned her as we drove home. I knew her breezy manner with possessions.

   "I will — I will," she assured me, but I noticed that very shortly it was placed carelessly on the dashboard of the car. That's where it stayed, and later that week when Kathi went out driving with Sharon and a few others, a little piece of paper "just flew" out of the open window of the car, to the screams and shrieks of the girls. It took five girls, on hands and knees, scrambling around in an open field for an hour, to retrieve the crumpled license.

   And that was not the only time she lost it.

   "Do you know how many times I've signed for your license?" I scolded her one day, two years later, when she brought home a form to be signed. "This is the third time you've lost it."

   "I know, mom," she said humbly. "This time, I'll keep it in my wallet."

   She did; however, the little green wallet was lost soon after that and was mailed back to us after she no longer needed it!

   Kathi simply didn't have time to keep things in order, for she was too busy with friends who were constantly calling or coming for her. After she had rushed out of the house, I would go to her room for a brief inspection tour. One look at her disorderly array of clothes, books, and cheerleading gear always left me furious. I couldn't believe that in spite of repeated warnings and scoldings she could leave things in such a mess.

   When she was home, there were phone calls constantly, some very late at night. Sometimes friends would come to see her when she should have been in bed. Like Jim, football star at Cleveland and Kathi's "buddy," who threw tiny stones at her bedroom window late at night to get her attention. When we questioned her about leaning out the window to hold midnight conversations, Kathi said, "But mom, it's Jim, and he wants to talk to me. He has to talk to someone."

   Jim was "special." Because he came from a broken home, he aroused all her understanding and sympathy.

   When the phone rang late at night, we asked, "Who is that calling so late?"

   "It's Glen. He's upset, mom, and wants to talk to somebody." Glen had just lost his sister in an automobile accident, and we found it difficult to forbid his late calls for Kathi's whispered words of comfort.

   And, of course, there were always the repeated calls from Felicia. A simmering anger was building up in me toward her because she always seemed to "be there" when I needed Kathi. Their friendship was deepening, and I was troubled by it.

   I was determined that Kathi would widen her circle of friends to exclude Felicia.

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