My girl in her pink and brown fleece piggy pajamas, lying on her back with the covers kicked off, pigtails splayed on her pillow to make her hair wavy the next day: Let me remember her like this when she is fourteen.
My partner does not live in fear of the teenage years. Not like me. She passed through our older daughter’s teens smoothly, without much trouble at all. I, on the other hand, expect to be different with the young one. I hold on. I am slow to let go. Of anyone. Anything.
My pigtailed girl is somewhat the same. We do not want to lose anyone. And as a result…?
I remember in high school, reading Emily Dickinson, e.e. cummings, Virginia Woolf. Brooding. Stream of consciousness. Poetry breaking rules. The radical search for a room of one’s own. I remember wanting my own style. I remember looking, always looking for where I belonged. Wanting to break out. Wanting to be free. As a writer. As a person. As the daughter of a rebel. I remember slowly beginning to understand: Belonging was a place I needed to make. Myself.
Finding the right stream was never easy for me. I would drag my stick along the creek bed and try to conjure the water. (The water which would one day come.)
I remember changing in the middle school locker room. I belonged to a small theatre troupe, a team that traveled to schools and parades and street fairs. We sang. We danced. We managed quick-changes in front of one another. It never mattered to me. We were just people, after all, with a job to do. In the middle school locker room, my nonchalance was a strength. It never mattered to me that I was changing in front of people. My body has always been mine.
It’s only later as an adult, that I see it was luck to say simply: My body has always been mine.
I remember my first solo on stage. It wasn’t very good. My voice wobbled. I was worried about how I’d be heard. A little like blogging, really. More like parenting. The worry. The feeling that I’m not… quite… good. Enough.
I remember in high school, how eager I was to get out of the house. I slept with my window open just a crack – every night – to be part of the outside, part of the night, part of a life separate from my own.
I worry about my daughter’s teens.
I buy books. I unwrap them with colleagues. I browse them for secrets I’ve not yet heard. I search them for road maps to make us safe.
I worry for us both in the years to come. I imagine my partner will be fine. Even though this is a different daughter. A different life.
Still, tonight is simple. Tonight, my partner is out with a friend and our daughter, holding a brush and a bag of hair bands, says to me, “Mami, will you braid my hair?” It is late and I want to say no, but it has been ages since she asked – so I nod and we sit together on her bed. She pulls out a book she hasn’t seen in awhile and I braid.
Tomorrow, she may remove all the braids and wrinkle her nose and wet her hair as she has so many times before. Or she may smile with confidence, nod, and leave the waves in. We don’t know. We can never know what tomorrow will bring.
Tonight, she sleeps with her braids tightly made.
Tomorrow will be what it is. Tonight, while she sleeps, I write.