August 1998: The weather and celebration agreed, the sun and wind were an enhancement versus a disruption. And in Oklahoma that was a rarity (Midwest weather was known for having the emotional stability of a three-year-old). But that day, the harmony made for sunshine and giggles— perfect companions for a child’s birthday party.
My twelve-year-old self, dressed in the utmost adult-like outfit I could pluck from my wardrobe, was smiling with my lanky arms pressed into my sides, my hands clasped together at my belly. As of late, my too-formal outfit and serious demeanor were a recurrent theme, as I stood on the scalped lawn of my parents’ yard and the very precipice of teenagedom.
I was off to the side, observing a line, more curved than straight, of children. My eyes rode up and down, the slightly askew uniform line of children a rollercoaster ride of heights and ages. Although not in line, I was the oldest, save for the neighbor boy–I’d once gotten into a physical fight with over tadpoles. The memory of it now makes me smirk.
Chasing some level of internal maturity, I’d felt like a spectator, although my parents would probably remember me as a participating child standing in the line waiting for my chance to pin the tail on the donkey—a hit at my brother’s birthday party. But I didn’t feel like a shareholder of childhood then. There was a disconnect to the experience, a proverbial bridge I’d started crossing and further refused to trek back to the starting point, too far gone.
At twelve-years-old, I had no clue, but I’d started an evolution of self, turning the page to the beginning act of shedding my childhood skin.
Now as a mother, there is a certain sensation of sorrow I feel recalling it, reflecting on the memory. Only because now, my memory is currently live, happening in real-time—no longer just a mental page filed under Sarah’s childhood.
Except at the present, it’s not me cast, instead, now headlining the same play, very act is my oldest daughter, who turns eleven next month. And God, it hurts to be in the audience knowing I can’t change the outcome because growth is a visceral part of being human.
Placed on the tipping edge of my seat, soaked in perspiration and terror, I feel helpless as I scream for her to turn back. It’s futile. My warning is silent, unable to pierce the veil of her growing human instinct that separates her and me.
All I have power to is clutching the back of her shirt in my fists with my face caught between the proudest grin and ugliest sob, in an attempt to drastically slow her speed on the track of life by the dig of my heels acting as a lead anchor.
And the experience is the most agonizing exhilaration.
God Bless this motherhood of mine.