The Princess Diaries

Contrary to what folks may have gathered from some of my previous posts, I do not spend all my time contemplating death and disaster. In fact, I spend almost as much time imagining the wonderful things that are unlikely to happen as I do the terrible ones.

Like when I was a teenager and would imagine myself the parent of five or six children, each lovelier and brighter than the last. Or after my kids were born, when I would picture myself running into an old flame or an ex-friend and realize that of the two of us, I had aged better. And like when, more recently, I envision myself being discovered by some hot editor who wants to offer me a hefty advance to reissue Unmatched, or being approached by Goldie Hawn with an offer to buy the movie rights.

Thanks either to nature or nurture, Princess Primrose, has also been blessed (or cursed, depending on the day) with a vivid imagination. Generally, she devotes hers to creating characters and drafting dialog, or sketching and inking artwork. Sometimes, however, she likes to speculate as to how awesome she would be were it not for the three to five minutes she went without oxygen thanks to the complications that occurred at the time of her birth.

Despite the oxygen deprivation, and the seizures and treatment that followed, the Princess appears to have suffered no permanent injury or disability and seems to have grown into an articulate, responsible, funny and artistic young woman. And while there are few among us for whom there is no room for improvement, whenever she speaks of the qualities she might have had or the abilities she might possess were it not for the brain damage she suffered, I literally shake my head because I can’t imagine any area of her life that would be different had she taken her first breath on her own rather than with the assistance of modern medicine.

Let’s start with academics, since it comes first alphabetically. Although the Princess has, without a doubt, a brilliant mind, she is a solid B student. And the fact that she is a B student rather than an A student has nothing to do with the condition of her gray matter. The simple fact is that she would rather read a graphic novel or the Sunday comics than a text book, journal article, or other required reading. Likewise she would rather write a 30 page piece of fan fiction than a 3 page essay on any topic—with the possible exception of video games and graphic novels. So she does the bare minimum it takes to keep me off her back and leaves herself free to pursue her primary passions. Thus, her academic performance is not the result of a lack of oxygen but to a dearth of interest and self-discipline.

The same goes for athletics. Although all her limbs and bodily systems are in working order, the Princess eschews sports and most all forms of physical activity—to include driving and walking. If she had her way, she would use a jet pack or teleporter not only to get to work and school, but to get from one part of the house to the other. She would also shower, shampoo, style her hair, and get dressed with the assistance of a robotic device. And this isn’t because the cells in the part of her brain that houses gross motor skills shriveled up and died twenty years ago. Rather, it’s because the part of her brain that houses imagination, emotion, and creativity has ballooned out of control and, in the words of Bernadette from The Big Bang Theory, is giving the rest of her brain a wedgie.

Let the record show that we did our best to raise a well-rounded, active individual. We set a good example by taking her and her brother walking, swimming, to the park, the pool, and the tennis courts; encouraged them to take part in school sports and community recreation whenever possible; and signed them up for any activity in which they expressed even the slightest interest—which, in her case included t-ball, soccer, ballet, tumbling, and karate.


But when the rubber hit the proverbial road, the Princess had her own ideas about what she needed to practice and how long she would do it. And she did not want to run drills, catch, kick, throw, or try to score. Nor did she want to stand around doing the same thing over and over again. She just wanted to skip about in tights and a tutu and do somersaults and cartwheels until she got dizzy; kick a soccer ball down an empty field unhindered by anyone from either her team or the opposing forces; and, in the case of t-ball, sit in the outfield collecting and comparing dandelions, daisies and dung beetles.

And so, apart from P.E. class, Princess Primrose has never played an entire game of soccer, t-ball, tennis, or volleyball, or performed a complete tumbling or dance routine. Although she did learn enough karate to earn her fourth belt, she gave that up when practice started cutting into her PSII and drawing time. And while she is capable of riding a bike, were it not for my willingness to tolerate a variety of insults and personal attacks aimed at getting me to give up and leave her to her own devices, she would still be doing so with the assistance of training wheels.

So it’s not a damaged brain that’s keeping Princess Primrose from making the honor roll or the dean’s list, or winning a scholarship to Harvard or Yale. Nor is it brain damage that has kept her from breaking speed or distance records, training for the Olympics, or being drafted into the WNBA.

Rather, it is her creative, dynamic, and obstinate personality that prefers drawing, reading, and writing over any other activity, and which—brain damage or not—I wouldn’t change for anything.