Dear Age Eleven,
You may not know this, but a few years ago, I wrote a love letter to my eleven year-old self. It wasn’t a conscious decision, choosing that age. Somehow, it was just the age I had to speak to.
Eleven, you are such a pivotal age: a growing-up-but-not-ready age. An age when things a girl has always counted on, her brain and her body and her instincts, seem to fail sometimes.
Things a girl thought were truths are now mysteries.
I thought I’d left you in the dust, Eleven, but now that my daughter is thick in the weeds with you, I remember.
I remember the way I’d suddenly feel so full of things that I wasn’t ready to feel that I thought I’d spontaneously combust, like one of those mysterious cows in Nebraska.
I remember the breasts you delivered, seemingly overnight.
I remember the hair–dear God–don’t get me started on the hair.
The change you bring is a forceful current, smacking me in corners when I’ve let my guard down. Like the smack of my daughter exiting the shower and sullenly showing me evidence of…pube-r-ty this weekend.
I tried to weather it gracefully. I bit the inside of my cheek and enveloped her in a beehive grip and promised her that it would be okay. But it’s not really okay–it’s dang weird–and all of us know it, you perhaps more than any.
I’d gotten complacent and forgotten your power, Eleven. How stupid of me.
My stupidity sent me screaming to the Super-Target on a weekend, in search of bigger bras. I also stood, dazed and paralyzed, in the “feminine hygiene” aisle in the grocery store. I haven’t purchased these items in quite some time and I was stricken at the choices now available. Holy George. Tampons in clever containers that look like lipstick. Pads with wings and advanced super-soak technology. Boxes and boxes of choices that shout, in neon pink and electric teal: “Womanhood!”
I stood in that aisle so long, eyes rolling around in my head, that a stocky pharmacist finally came up beside me and said, “Can I help you find something?”
No, well-meaning pharmacist, you can’t help me and you can’t help my daughter, who I’m pissed off at because I can’t help her.
Eleven=proof of maternal inadequacy.
But I have to get over it, get over myself, because this isn’t about me. It’s about my Roman Candle of a girl who is explosive and fiery and beautiful.
I tell her she’s beautiful because you make her doubt it, Eleven. We need to talk about this someday.
In fact, I shouldn’t even like you, Eleven, let alone love you. But I do.
I love you for colt-ish limbs that still, on occasion, offer a hug and endure a cuddle.
I love you for–after many years of struggle–convincing my daughter that personal hygiene is important.
I love you for hectic curls that suddenly, more than ever, defy gravity.
I love you for another year of a homemade valentine.
I love you, age Eleven, in all of your messy glory. The turmoil and the confusion and the in-between-ness of you.
I love you because your chaos delivers unexpected gifts. Like a daughter who suddenly tells her mother daily that, “I loveyouloveyouloveyou.”
A daughter who leans in close and rests a weary head on a shoulder.
A girl so ripe with possibility that it leaves her mother gasping for air.