Maggie is a third-year writing student and a singer/songwriter currently recording her first full-length album. She’s had the opportunity to open for nationally touring artists and bands over the past 4 years, and played a date at the final cross-country run of the Vans Warped Tour this past summer. Maggie is looking forward to pouring more of her heart into writing and music this year.
The Schneider Girls
Stephanie Schneider has been both my mom and best friend for all my life. Most mornings begin the same way: I wake up disheveled, pushing my thick bangs off of my bare face and reaching for my glasses with my eyes half-shut. I find the strength to move my legs from their cocoon in the covers to the carpet quickly, and walk towards the living room where my mother is usually stationed. Her hair is pinned back into a short ponytail, while her face is pinned to her iPad screen. The brightness of the light illuminates her face and her feet are curled up beside our family dog, Annie. She’s most-likely been grading high school English papers for hours already. The sound of my footsteps and high pitched “Good morning” always alert her, and she looks up at me with a smile. She turns her iPad off and asks me how my night was and if anything exciting happened overnight. We talk to each other about everything: the guys in my life, my mom’s stories from college, her colorful childhood, and all of our individual dreams. This is a difficult concept for a lot of people to understand. How can mothers and daughters be friends? Aren’t daughters supposed to rebel? Aren’t mothers supposed to make the hard, strict rules? It just doesn’t seem to add up.
We are the Schneider Girls: a dynamic mother-daughter duo deserving of our own television series. We’ve already watched the entire “Gilmore Girls” series seven times (and the disappointing Netflix remake only once – don’t get us started on this) and believe that we could be Amy Sherman Palladino’s next hit show. We wouldn’t need a script or a set because we’re living in our own Stars Hollow, based out of Smyrna, Georgia; a red-brick house tucked away in the middle of suburbia that is full of complex characters, relationships, and everyday conflicts. We fill the walls with secrets, the living room with friends, and the kitchen with laughs (due to all of our baking failures). Our lives are not perfect, but we take on the world together in our own little bubble we call home.
It’s not like I came out of womb being a mama’s girl, nor did I expect to get so lucky in the mom-department. My mom was told from a young age that it just wasn’t possible for her to have children, but my parents remained persistent for a couple years. Doctors from all different walks of life shook their heads and reminded my mom of the impossibility for over a year. Their harsh, thick tones repeated the tragic news that she miscarried once again. She broke down when it happened for the fourth time, and my dad was ready to give up or look into adoption. My mom decided not to let go of her dream to have a child of her own, and met a new doctor testing new progesterone treatments that allowed her to stay pregnant for the full term. It was a big risk, and there was the possibility that neither of us would make it in the end, but everything turned out okay somehow. “You were the one that was meant to be ours,” my mom constantly says to me and beams. She calls it a miracle.
My mother has always been a caretaker who is eager to please others even to the detriment of herself. Her accomplishments as a published writer and graduate of the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill tend to go unnoticed, but I always find a way to mention her brilliance.
“You double majored in English and psychology and maintained a 4.0,” I’ll say. “You’re brilliant!”
“Nah,” she shakes her head and looks down with a nervous grin. “I’m not that smart.”
My earliest memories are those in the car with my mom on the way to preschool. She would roll the windows down and blast Bon Jovi through our mini-van’s speakers, singing along to “It’s My Life” and “Have a Nice Day” with sheer enthusiasm. Soon, I began singing with her from the backseat as the lyrics and melodies invaded my mind and my heart. She would check her rearview mirror to watch me sing every few seconds, a ritual that only the two of us would understand. When we were less than a mile from reaching the stuffy private Christian school that I attended, my mom would roll the windows up and turn the music down, fearing that the parents and faculty would crucify the both of us if they caught us singing “Wanted Dead or Alive” again. They would open up my passenger door wearing their hair up in tight buns without one strand out of place. I would get out of the car and wave to my mom goodbye as the ladies wearing the buns and muddy brown cardigans lead me to where our morning prayer would be held.
Going to a private Christian school was not easy for me, and it got worse when I transferred to a private Catholic school in second grade. I felt like an outsider and it was hard to make friends during this time of my life. The cool kids played soccer while I sat by a maple tree humming rock songs to myself. Being the tallest girl in my class, I always stood out at the back of the lunch line with my fellow unpopular classmates, who were all just as disappointed as I was to receive the cafeteria tater tots last – cold tater tots were never enjoyable. My hair was always messy and frizzy, with a big bump at the crown of my head that could’ve been trendy in the 1980s. Kids around me would laugh and whisper whenever I spilled chocolate milk on my green- plaid jumper, a frequent occurrence. One time, I got sick and threw up all over my drawing in art class and blacked out from the embarrassment. I ran out of the classroom hearing a crowd of kids shouting “Ewww” and “Gross” from yards away. My mom was the first one there, wiping my mouth and the tears from my face in the school bathroom. Nobody ever forgot what happened that afternoon, and my reputation as the messy barf girl was unbearable.
On less eventful days, I prayed for early dismissal. Walking down the concrete steps to the carpool line outside always felt like a miracle. I would grip the hot railing on the way down the stairs, where my mom was standing front and center to greet me. My stained uniform and permanent frown let her know what kind of day it was. I’d give her hand a tight squeeze as we walked over to the car and back into our positions to sing “Jessie’s Girl” by Rick Springfield for the ride home.
Our relationship changed for good on a Wednesday of my third grade year. I rehearsed for my school’s spring musical, which had something to do with Jesus. Our choir teacher, who frequently told us that all of our sins would be played back for us on a giant projection screen after we die, was directing the production like it was her Broadway debut. She forced me to stand on a red wooden box for 2 hours, without a break, and my legs felt wobbly. When I sat down for a moment, she screeched at me to get up again, pointing her bony index finger at me with disapproval. When I smiled through my anxiety and followed her instruction, she yelled at me for smiling so much. I turned away from her angry gaze and squinting eyes, feeling the beads of sweat roll down my neck.
I was exhausted when I made it home that night. “How was your day?” was a loaded question, a phrase that gave me goosebumps. My dad made me a large ice cream sundae with a mountain of whipped cream on top, as if he knew I needed something nice to hold onto for a little while. I sat on the floor and ate my sundae as my mom flipped through the television channels. All of a sudden, tremors overcame my body and paralyzed my hands. It was this tingling sensation that wouldn’t go away no matter how many times I tried to shake it off. My fingers curled up one by one, forcing me to drop my spoon on the carpet. This paralysis moved up my arms and to the right side of my face, forcing my mouth shut. I tried reaching for my sundae cup but tipped it over instead. The whipped cream slowly seeped out of the cup and onto the carpet. The numbness of my hands and face were uncontrollable.
My mom noticed that something was wrong when I stopped talking to her about the show we were watching. Her face was paralyzed with fear when she saw my face, which was still tingling and twitching. She screamed for my dad, who ran down the stairs and called 911. After three intense minutes of my mom holding me and asking me what was wrong, the twitching and numbness subsided. I could finally talk and move my hands. “I’m okay, I’m okay mom” was the only thing I said, repeating each word with the fear that it was a lie. When the ambulance arrived, the paramedics checked my vitals and were confused as to what happened in those three minutes. They recommended going to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to get a thorough examination, and that night, I found out that I had a seizure.
From that point forward, my mom stayed up all night to make sure I was okay. She would check on me every hour, watching for the signs of seizures in my sleep: Sleepwalking, teeth grinding, restlessness. She kept a notebook to log my morning headaches and asked me every few minutes if the pain had gone away. Sometimes I would lie to make her feel better. Once it was prescribed, my mom gave me my medication twice a day, which helped normalize my brain activity. While the headaches went away, the slimy grape-flavored liquid made me susceptible to every cough and cold at school, and so I began doing my schoolwork at home. This transition made me a much happier kid and brought me closer to my mom, who was given so much flak for making this decision.
It was three years of excessive testing and medication. I had my first EEG (electroencephalography test) when I was nine. Two nurses put a disgusting amount of goo all over my scalp, and stuck small electrodes on top of the gel. I was forced to have this test done at home multiple times in an effort to keep track of my condition and progress. My head was wrapped with gauze and the weight of the wires held me down on the living room sofa. I didn’t feel anxious because my mom helped me forget about the wires, the medication, and the unfortunate gauzy hairdo. It was because she treated me like I was normal. She turned on The Disney Channel and talked to me about the silliest things when I couldn’t fall asleep. She never lectured me about what was going on with my condition. My mom was my first friend, the kind I wanted to meet and sit next to at lunch in the school cafeteria. It was at this point when I began talking to her about my feelings and previous insecurities at school.
“I just want to have friends,” I said, feeling my chin and bottom lip quiver.
“You’re special, Maggie,” my mom replied, putting her hand on my face. “You will get through this, and I will do everything I can to give you the happiest life possible.”
My mom kept her promise.
I remember the green plush frog I received from the neurologist when he told me I grew out of my condition. I was twelve years old and a completely different kid. “I’m so glad you’re okay,” my mom said, wiping the tears off of her face as we walked back to the car.
“What do you want to listen to on the way home?” she asked. “Let’s put on some Bon Jovi,” I replied.