“Mom, can we get this one, please?” begged the little boy, eyeing the whimsically designed game that Chloe and Sophie adored when they were his age. He examined the brightly colored box and its well-worn contents with the kind of childlike yearning my girls haven’t expressed in years. When his mother gently refused to buy it for him, he eventually chose another toy and walked away happy. He reminded me of Lisa, the young girl who fatefully discovered the slightly damaged, but ever-so-lovable Corduroy in the department store.
Sophie walked toward me and tried, without much success, to suppress her grin. Gesturing with her hands in excitement, she yelled “Mom!” several times as she approached the dining room table where I was sitting.
“I finished Harry Potter! I finished it! I can’t believe I finished it!”
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, I kept journals. During my senior year in high school and throughout college, and again for two years in my early 30s after my father died, I filled more than 20 blank books with the minute details of my inner and outer lives.
A few months ago, I found them in a box in my basement. After reading a few entries, I quickly realized I wasn’t ready to revisit my past. I closed the box, put it back on the shelf and returned to my daily routine.
“Damn, she’s tall!” I marveled as Sophie stood beside her friends the other day. She towered over her 10-year old peers by several inches and although her rapidly increasing height wasn’t news to me, it was still startling to see the contrast.
I was a young teenager from suburban New Jersey when I first discovered David Bowie. I was a conventional kid – followed the rules, did my work, behaved…I didn’t really have an ounce of rebellion in me. But when I listened to his raspy, chameleon-like voice sing lyrics that seemed to speak only to me, I’d become someone else for the length of a song. A girl on the cusp of womanhood who didn’t care what others thought of her, who dared to be different, who could actually hold a tune. Bowie was my rebellion.
“Bye, Sophie!” yelled Papa as we were leaving for the bus stop yesterday.
After a brief pause, our 10-year old suddenly turned around and ran to her father, who was standing in the vestibule waving to her. She hugged him so tightly around his midriff that she squeezed a grin right out of him.
Sophie shot up four inches in the past year. I never appreciated the miracle of a four-inch growth spurt until I observed her over the summer and realized both to my delight and horror that my little girl’s body had stretched out – not unlike Gumby – and almost entirely lost its childlike proportions. Unbeknownst to us, her body was apparently preparing itself for its tenth birthday, a milestone she finally reached this evening at 8:49 pm.
I breathed in the salt-infused air from our hotel on Cape Cod Bay, bidding farewell to summer from North Truro, a couple of miles outside of Provincetown. The glorious week with our extended family went by all too quickly.
As Chloe’s middle school graduation approaches, I feel a bit unmoored and I’m not quite sure what to make of it.
For every positive thought I have when I think about the milestone – pride, relief, happiness, excitement for Chloe’s future – I have an equal and opposite reaction, and those reactions all essentially revolve around the overwhelming fact that in three short months, my 14-year old will be a freshman in HIGH SCHOOL. Setting aside the fact that this makes me feel old, it primarily makes me nervous, but not for the reasons you might think.
Have you ever stolen a glance at one of your kids while she’s in the midst of an activity – a routine, unexceptional activity – and felt a love so intense it takes your breath away?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t tend to experience such overwhelming feelings very frequently. When that rare pang hits, it takes me a minute before I realize what’s happening.