Bessie passes the bar!!!!!!!

Dateline: Thu 02 Oct 2008

Blogs that reference children and kittens are tiresome, but I promise there is a moral here.

Bessie Holladay, age 29, the baby of the family with two big brothers, was largely regarded by teachers and some peers during childhood as a "flibberty-gibbit" (Gracie Bill, her darling teacher at Childrens' Corner pre-school, made that pronouncement, not unkindly). Later it was: "She'll make a good wife." That was the diagnosis of another educator/friend, after testing her at the Bureau of Jewish Education in preparation for kindergarten -- a judgment that to this day causes my feminist friends to gnash their teeth in fury.

All thru St. Thomas Aquinas grade school, and even at Brebeuf Preparatory School, the flibberty-gibbit/wife candidate was often in trouble for big mouth: she talked out of turn, she whispered to the other girls in class (especially Manuela Pizzi) and in general she remained a "flibberty-gibbit," although a very sweet, smart and pretty one who always stole whatever show she was in (lots, starting with starring roles as Golem at the Civic Children's Theatre and the Pharoh at the Bureau of Jewish Ed).

After majoring in criminal justice at Indiana University, she briefly considered applying to the Indianapolis Poice Academy, but the family joke was that she'd lose her .38. The weapon, I figured, would disappear down that same hole where her purse, wallet, keys, extra lipstick, etc. ended up. Probably not a good idea to entrust her with a rather large piece.

What to do? In between boyfriends, with the "wife" part of life delayed, she took the advice of her big brother Andrew and his wife Joy and her big brother Zera. "Go to law school," they said. Both boys had jobs in Chicago working for a time for Craig Hammond, a tough woman lawyer who made an enduring impression on them, and not just for her unusual name.

So Bessie did, at John Marshall School of Law in Chicago. I am pretty sure she still talked out of turn in class. But she graduated in the top quarter or third or something respectable.

This week, she learned that she passed the Illinois Bar Exam -- she was one of 2,700 takers of the test in Illinois in July. (The average pass rate for July in Illinois is 85 percent. It is 70-75 percent in February, which is when many who failed in July are retaking it.)

Was she ecstatic? Only in the way that anyone is after completing a triathalon or mastering a complex skill set that entitles you to write J.D. or "esq" after your name or, yes, birthing a baby. She only called me three times with the throaty laughing message: "Guess what Mama? I passed the bar...."

Now, to the moral. It's so obvious, but here it is: Do not let others define you. Believe in yourself, with genuine humility and no false pride. If you are a parent, believe in your children. Encourage them at their talents. Or shut up when others are doing so.

Make moxie a part of your diet. Drink it at breakfast, noon and night. Swallow with a strong dose of reality.

Bessie does. As I fretted about the test results due out Wednesday, I suggested, selfishly, to her that she could always come home to Indiana...live with her parents...or one of her brothers....leave her cool boyfriend, a law student....play with the kittens....

"No way in hell, Mama," the flibberty-gibbit said. "If I fail this f----, I am going to take it again. I'm going to take it until I pass it," she told me.

She did, and maybe some of her teachers missed one other character trait: she is tenacious.

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