Thursday, August 02, 2007

From the Mommy Archives

(I was looking for a document in my rarely-touched files this morning and found this little ditty, written ten years ago, when Elisabeth was just turning 13. The moment I describe seems both like yesterday and like eons ago!

As I re-read this, I realize that many of my blog entries will bring the same sort of nostalgia ten years from now, and I want to save them in a condensed format. Does such a tool exist? Does anyone know how to do this?)

A Defining Teenage Moment

My life as a mother usually drifts from one day to the next without much definition or distinction. But sometimes a moment is so poignant that my entire maternal existence is defined by it. Such a moment burned into my memory today, like the smoking pinpoint of sunlight under a magnifying glass.

Elisabeth will be thirteen in a week. Since she was barely eleven, I called her a teenager, but I didn’t really mean it. I was preparing myself for the time when I must actually utter the word “teen” to tell people how old she is. She is anxiously awaiting her birthday, as though she will suddenly be different on that day.

And she will. Just as she seems to be so unpredictably different every day lately! One day she is sweet, good-natured, loving and friendly, and we all enjoy her company and her easy-going sense of humor. The next day, for absolutely no reason that I can determine, she is grouchy, irritable, irrational and angry, drawing us all under her dark cloud, then dumping all over us!

Today we had a Brownie meeting at our house for Katherine's troop. The weather was unseasonably warm so we decided to paint our flower pots on the deck. Elisabeth, as usual during Brownie meetings, was happily helping the girls. Young children are drawn to Elisabeth’s good-natured warmth. When I watch her with children I lament her unstoppable academic ambitions, for I think she would make an excellent pre-school teacher some day. But already she’s rejected that career choice, for the pay is neither high enough, nor the recognition adoring enough for her.

As I looked out the front window, I noticed Jonathan, her current “crush,” talking to some other young teenage boys in front of the house. I casually said to Elisabeth, “Jonathan’s out there.” She sprung up, tipping over the flower pot. As she peeked out the window I noticed that her movements had suddenly become self-conscious and awkward. She bounced into the kitchen where I was preparing a snack for the Brownies. She put both hands on my shoulders and bounced that definitive teenage bounce. (Is she really taller than I am? It seemed so just then.) “Oh my God, Mom! I think I’m gonna cry!” she wailed giddily. “I can’t believe it! Oh my God, Mom! I’m shaking! Look!” She held out her hand to show me the slight tremor in her fingers. “Don’t let him know I’m home!” she demanded. “And don’t you dare do anything to embarrass me!” And then she was gone. I chuckled to myself and brought the snack to the Brownies.

A few minutes later, when I looked out the window, I saw a completely different girl. (Didn’t she just demand that I not let Jonathan know she was home?) Elisabeth was leaning against the mailbox, talking to Jonathan. Her hip was thrust sideways, and both hands were pushed into her back pockets, thumbs out. Her head was cocked to the side, and as I watched, she threw her head back in a well-rehearsed laugh. It was that moment that the pinpoint of light under the magnifying glass etched into my memory. I could feel the heat, and I knew that it would be with me forever.

Next week she’ll be thirteen. Soon after that she’ll casually introduce me to her prom date. Then her Homecoming date. Someday, she’ll walk down the isle with the man she’s decided to spend her life with. Will those moments be more poignant than this one? Today, I can’t imagine that they will.

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