My editor came to visit today, that quiet editor who nobody hears but me. Her voice is amplified in my head. She worries what I will say about Nine, because she understands what so few women of my generation glean: Nine has joined the ranks of pre-teen.
She worries for me.
She knows what happened to my mom when I reached this stage and she doesn’t want me spinning down the same path. She thinks I should concentrate on changing the course of our lives, but I won’t listen. I want to do it my way. Mine.
My daughter is nine.
At One, when her hand stretched up to me on a walk, her fingertips wouldn’t touch mine unless I bent sideways. I got a crick in my back so that didn’t last long but recently, we’ve begun to hold hands.
At Two, she ran gleefully across the grass every day, and if I went into the bathroom alone – ever – she’d fly at me in passionate reunion when I returned.
At Three, she pressed her face against the window of her preschool classroom each morning, forlorn, until I learned to walk her to her teacher and chat a moment before leaving. Leaving still broke my heart, but she seemed fine.
Now she’s nine.
At Four, she stood on the stage with her class and sang for the first time.
At Five, she did the same thing again, but first she said – in that silence before the first note, in a packed school auditorium – “I’m hungry.” Loudly. Plain as day. My quiet kid said that. Then. There. Before she started to sing.
By Six, she was on her second pair of glasses, reading voraciously, discovering that humor made her popular in class.
By Seven, there was yoga. There was missing her sister, still hours from home. There was my stepmom — her Abuelita — passing away. With. Her. There. There was the birth of my blog.
By Eight, she was paddling a kayak on her own, telling her own stories, considering her own path.
“Do you want her to read this one day?” my editor now protests each time I sit down to write. I don’t know. “Be careful what you say.”
She tells me that two of her friends wear training bras. At least two. More than two. She hasn’t asked for one yet, but it’s only a matter of time. She’s still mustering her courage.
She tells me she wants a tattoo – of a skull and crossbones. She shows me where – on the inside of her right forearm. She is that specific. I put my entire face in my palm. She says, “Well, maybe. I don’t know yet.” Of course she doesn’t know yet. She’s only nine.
We watch “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” for Family Movie Night – with this child who was afraid of a robot dog in some other movie just last year or maybe the year before. Now, she’s nine.
She nearly falls asleep in my lap. She invites me onto her bed for a quiet night chat, and then puts her head on my leg. I stroke her hair awhile, her cheeks, each perfect eyebrow. It’s been months since she lay on me like this. She is so Nine.
She is angry. She throws something in my direction. She is not trying to hit me; she is trying to make a point. She makes it. I demand that she go to her room. After I release her, ten more minutes creep by and she comes to me with sad eyes, to apologize. “I’m sorry, Mommy. Really.”
We hug. She is only nine.
Arriving at school, she scowls when I walk with her towards the playground, where her class lines up at the back of the school, ready and waiting to be let in. She’s nine already, forheavensake – What am I thinking?! So much time has passed since… yesterday.
She re-discovers our “Just You and Me” journal and asks me to write her a question on the “free space” page. I write, because I really want to know, “What is one thing that makes you super happy?” She takes the pencil, pensively.
She writes back, “You.”
I tell her she makes me super happy, too.
Photo by Sharmili Majmudar