Twelve Years Old

When I flash to memories of my Mom she is, most often, in one of two places.  In a large portion of my memories, my Mom is sitting on a stool at our counter.  She might have a newspaper in front of her, turned to the page with the crossword–the main reason we actually subscribed to the local paper, I believe.  My mom could kill a crossword puzzle. Or she might have scissors in her hand, carefully clipping Tide and Palmolive coupons because, if you see a dollar on the ground, wouldn’t you pick it up? (Lessons from my Mom.)

In many of the other memories, she is standing at the counter fixing a meal.  Maybe it’s lunch, or, more likely, dinner.  Often her back is turned away from my siblings and I and she is slicing or dicing whatever she will be serving that evening.  This is when I learned that my Mom had eyes in the back of her head.  That was quite an astounding observation for my siblings and I.  Somehow, without ever turning around from her chopping, dicing and slicing, she could reprimand my sister or my brother or I (usually my brother, sometimes me, never my sister who was the youngest ‘perfect’ child) for hitting, making faces, or simply staring at each other.

Damon! she’d call out without turning around, Don’t hit your sister.
Summer! Stop making faces at your brother.
Ashley, she’d say in her sweetest, most tender voice, are they bothering you? ( I no longer fault my Mom for this–Meadow was my education to the youngest’perfect’ child.)
How did you know? we’d ask marveling at they way she seemed to always know what was going on behind her.
I have eyes in the back of my head, she’d calmly report to us, as if this was common knowledge.
Not ahhhh, we’d counter because we spoke proper English.
Yes I do, she’d inform us.  All Mom’s have it.

We were pretty sure my Mom was a crossword-puzzling super-hero.

Anyway, I remember one particular conversation my Mom and I had while she was turned around chopping, slicing and dicing while I sat doing nothing at the breakfast bar behind her.

How old are you, I asked her?
How old do you think I am, she responded.
64? I asked.
Not quite, she answered and I’m guessing she was scowling at me, but I couldn’t see because her back was turned and I didn’t have super powers yet.
I can’t remember exactly how old she was when we had this conversation, but I do remember her saying this. . . you know, I never feel much older than 12.  No matter how old I get, I really only feel about 12 years old.

It’s funny the things I remember.  I knew my Mom for 32 years of my life and crosswords, superpower vision and 12 years old stand out in my memory.

I’m 38 years old now and I think my Mom was right. . . we never really feel much older than 12.  To be clear, I’m not talking about everybody.  Certainly, the world isn’t filled with 12 year olds, right?  Maybe I just come from a long line of 12 year olds? Or maybe the 12-year old thing is something my mom passed along to me.  Certainly and unfortunately I didn’t get her cross-wording gift.  Instead, I got 12.

I remember 12 as being the awkwardest of the awkward years.  Junior high was the beginning of a whole new world and all of these strange kids from all over our city joined together in a single building.  I remember what it was like trying to find “my place”.  Old friends mixed with new friends and and the stark contrast between the cool and not cool kids was even more blaring than in my little elementary school.  (I landed comfortably in the middle.) The fumes of BRUT cologne from the boys and EXCLAMATION perfume from the girls made me feel as though I was walking in a strange dreamy fog most of the time.

It was a year of pretending. Pretending to be cool.  Pretending to be chill. Pretending to to have it all together.

Man, 12 was awkward.

Here I am, 26 years later and while I might be able to hold a conversation about politics or organic chemistry (okay, maybe one of those) on many days I still feel very much 12. Of course I look all cool and adult-like with my drivers license, credit cards, and the three kids-thing, but so often I walk through life wondering if I’m doing it all anything right.

Perhaps I’m doing some things right. But, no doubt I’m doing plenty of things wrong.  That’s the thing about being 38 (even if your a 12 year old in a 38 year old body), no one tells you exactly what to do.  At 38 I get to write my own story, blaze my own trail, walk my own path.  That is equal parts scary and invigorating. When I look at the road ahead of me, I don’t see a clearly marked long and winding road, but rather I see just far enough to take a step or two.  Beyond that, it seems foggy, much like the Brut and Exclamation fog that surrounded me during pre-teen years.  At 38, though, I understand that I don’t really need to see all the way down that long and winding road.  I don’t really need to know the next 100 steps or 45 steps or even the next 10.

What I am understanding, more and more, as I stand just on the brink of a new and different season of my life, when my littlest goes to school next year, is that to take time to quiet the chaos both inside and out is the most important thing I can do.  To do, as Anne Sexton says, put my ear down to my heart and listen hard.  I don’t have to pretend that I have it all together anymore.  To be alive is to be present, here and now, and to drink in all the beauty that mixes with all the sadness that life brings.  To live is to walk boldly through and feel, really feel, all the joy and the fear and grief and love that mingle together in any given day.

I don’t want to rush through any of it. . . through life.  I want to linger just long enough to allow all of it–the good, the scary, the amazing and the mundane to wash over me like cleansing waves.  Today, I get that it’s not my job to understand it all or have all the answers.  I still walk through life much like the nervous 12 year old I was long ago.  Today, though, I understand that I don’t have to have it all together. . . I simply have to live it.
Some snippets from our week. . .

v56b8451fbBackyard camping. . .

Front yard fun. . .

My last year of adventuring with my littlest home. . .

Seeing the beauty in the mundane. . .

v56b8634v56b8622v56b8596v56b8482v56b8525v56b8527v56b8508v56b8515Enjoying the tiny moments while they are here. . .


Happy Weekend, Friends.