Oh my goodness. Twelve.
A few weeks ago, we sat in the auditorium of the school you will be heading to next year, listening to your new teachers talk about all of the wonderful and scary and ordinary possibilities that lay before you. You squeezed my hand. “Can you believe that it’s time for me to go junior high school already?” you asked me. In all honesty, I possibly or probably or certainly cannot.
What a lofty number this twelve is. It’s the identity of so many important things: Months. Rulers. Color wheel hues. Apostles. Wall clocks. Knights of the Round Table. Studio Beatles records. Grades. Earthly branches (you = rooster). Days of Christmas. Angry Men. Steps. And now you.
I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had with my friend Linda, who died a few years ago. As I carried you in a baby sling, she heard people chide me about your future career as a twelve-year-old. “Super cute now,” they would say, and then imply that you would surely wreak havoc on my sanity or wallet or patience or something untenable at this age and beyond. She didn’t like it when people said those kinds of things, she told me. Witnessing her teenage daughter grow and change was an ongoing privilege, adding assurances to me that living at odds with an adolescent is not a foregone conclusion. You would just become more you, more adult, more complex and as unendingly interesting as every person is. I’m still grateful for this advice. I miss her. (I promise to work on maintaining my willingness to remain curious about you, because I’m pretty sure that the last thing you need from me right now is unsolicited advice. I can’t help it, sometimes, you know, but I am trying to keep it in check.)
I’m so grateful to have been able to spend more time with you again this past year. I saved so I could be closer to you during the major life transitions we’ve made – moving to Indiana, moving in with Larry, becoming this blended, three-person, three-dog (half of twelve) household. Transitions are never without their difficulties, but things are vastly different – easier – than our lives not so long ago. The outside world seems inconceivably screwed up at the moment, but this house has so much peace and kindness and open communication in it. I believe you kind of love it here. You surely do love Larry. And Walter, your burrowing bedtime companion. And all of us.
What an amazing school year you have had. At last a place that has kept you challenged among brilliant peers who make you feel so warmly accepted. During all of these springtime picnics and events, one thing I keep hearing from parents and teachers is “I keep forgetting that he’s only been here a year. He’s such a part of the community.” You adapted to such a different work cycle. You were King Oberon in Midsummer Night’s Dream. You’ve been able to contribute to the choreography in Lyrical dance class. When it comes to music, and your ongoing love of playing piano, this town has been a complete lottery win.
Certain things about you are the same as always. Like when we are carrying groceries into the house together and you suddenly stop to say something like “Did you know that koala bears have smooth brains and that’s why they can’t learn much of anything?” or “Human sinuses drain from the top, not the bottom – Isn’t that dumb?” You ask me to estimate how many times a bee’s wings flap per minute and rarely take no for an answer. “Just guess, mom, okay? Please?” You are always trying to figure something out, and I never know what that might be.
Then there is that other thing that has always shined out of you so brilliantly, so consistently, so surprisingly: your kindness. April was a hard month. We made it to two of the three funerals we could have attended – the two matriarchs of Larry’s family. I watched how much you wanted to tend to him as he said goodbye to his aunt, then his mother. You signed such thoughtful things to his mom – your dear friend – on the day that she died. Then you chose a glass bluebird that you felt was beautiful – a decoration on your bookshelf – to be buried with her. It was a lovely wish for her eternal happiness straight from you, her newest grandbaby. “Hey, sweet girl,” you signed to her, smiling, before we put it on her shoulder.
Sometimes at your new school, just like your old school, a parent will stop me in the hallway to tell me about something truly kind or encouraging that you did for their child with tears in their eyes. (This is a contagious condition.)
I realize that I’m your mom and everything, but I really think you are amazing. I like knowing you and learning from you. I like the way that you respect your friends and talk to strangers about dogs and astronomy at the ice cream shop. I like it that you nicknamed me “blue mouse” but almost always beckon me from the other room like this: “mom… mom… mommy… mom!” I like you. I love you. I trust you. I hope you continue to be everything that you already are, only more so, plus new things.
You are so wonderfully, magically twelve and being your mom is still the best thing ever.
Love + XO x infinity,