“What is it now, sweetcheeks?”
Brittany was trying and failing to hold back tears. “I showed Kent the list of names you gave me and he said they’re not real astronauts. He said most of them probably didn’t even go into space, and even if they did, they were only there to cook and clean.”
Her grandmother burst out laughing.
Brittany’s tears turned from hurt to angry. “It’s not funny!”
“Oh, honey, I’m sorry. I’m not laughing at you. I’m laughing at Kent. He has no idea what he’s talking about. Those women cooking and cleaning. Hoo!” She wiped tears from her own eyes, but they were tears of mirth.
“But it’s not fair!” Brittany stomped a foot on the ground. “All that hard work. All those accomplishments. A whole list!” She shook the list of women’s names her grandmother had given her back in her grandmother’s face. “And it doesn’t make any difference!”
“What do you mean, it doesn’t make any difference? Those women got to live out their dreams and go into space!” Her grandmother flung her arms up and out to indicate the awesomeness of that achievement. “And do you really think they did all that so a little snot like Kent would believe they could?”
Brittany sniffled and wiped her nose, not meeting her grandmother’s eyes.
“Sweetie, they didn’t do it for him. They did it for themselves. And they did it so girls like you could follow in their footsteps. They paved the way for you and made it possible for you to do things their mothers and grandmothers could only have dreamed of. That’s the real achievement.”
Brittany still didn’t say anything.
“What did I say about your reasons for doing anything?”
“That I should only do it if I really want to.”
“That’s right. You don’t want to be an astronaut just so you can brag to Kent, do you?”
Brittany looked down at her feet. “No.”
“I certainly hope not. Millions – billions – of women have made the mistake of living to try to please others, and let me tell you right now, it is not a happy existence. You have to do what makes you happy, whether others believe in you or not. You have to believe in yourself. So if you want to go into space, you put in the time and the work and you go into freaking space!”
“Freaking” was as close as her grandmother ever got to swearing, and it made Brittany giggle.
“How many times do I have to tell you? It’s not about him, it’s about you. He might say girls can’t do anything because he believes it, but that’s not the worst part. The worst part is that he wants you to believe it. You don’t win when you convince him of what you can do. You win when you believe in yourself. And he wins when you stop believing in yourself. Get it?”
Brittany grinned and nodded.
“So, now what are you going to do?”
“I’m going to go into space!” Brittany jumped up and punched the air above her head.
“Because I want to.”
“That’s my girl.”
Brittany folded her hands behind her back. “But, you know, being able to say, ‘I told you so’ to Kent would be a bonus.”
Her grandmother laughed and hugged her granddaughter close. “I suppose it would. A bonus is allowed. Relying on his approval is not.”
Brittany nodded firmly and hugged her grandmother back.
“Now go do your homework. You have a lot of work to do if you’re going to make it up there.”
Brittany hopped away from her grandmother, stood quickly at attention, threw her grandmother a salute, then raced into the house.
To be continued…
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