Friday, July 29, 2011

I am Six(tween), Going on Seven(tween)

This pretty much sums it up:

A week or so ago, I took Bella to a great sale for Fall clothing. Included in our purchases were a pair of boots (black, her choice), a very cute fall jacket (sort of softly military style), and a black tunic thing that she liked and I thought was ingenious because it could be worn as a dress, with leggings, with jeans, with a shirt under it, etc. I never intended these items to be put together apparently, because when she came home and did a fashion show for Mr. ABF and put them all on along with the impulse-buy zebra rimmed sunglasses, she suddenly looked like she was heading out for an evening with Selena and The Bieber.

"Are they too old for her? I didn't think they were when I bought them," I whispered to Mr. ABF, biting my lip.
"No, not separately, but together like that . . . "

And then not 48 hours later, she modeled her self-directed outfit for her week at my aunt's farm: Denim overalls with a short-sleeved red and white checkered shirt avec peter pan collar. Suddenly she looked Rockwell-esque, the likely recipient of Opie's first small crush.

She is growing up quickly, now stuck in that no-(wo)man's land between girl and GIRL. Not quite a tween, but too old, too big for the little girl's tastes and toys and music and activities. Not quite old enough for mom to allow painted fingernails and carte blanche downloading of Katy Perry tunes. Too old for picture books, onto chapters, but not quite ready to leave Eloise behind. Because she has always been verbally mature I find I often have to remind myself, "She's only six. She's only six."

Until this week.


Bella has chosen to spend the last week of her seventh year at my aunt's farm, on a sleep-away camp adventure. She has been begging to do this since she was three, and we both thought this year the time was ripe. She is learning to ride with reins (she has been on a horse since she was 2.5; but always led), she is milking cows and will help take them to the county fair. She is mucking stalls, making smores, and sleeping in my aunt's guest room by herself. It is the first time Bella has been away from us like this, for this long, and it is odd. She is clearly over the moon and having the time of her life evidenced by the pictures and phone calls, so it's hard to be sad really, and yet.

(Yes, she did that herself, and yes, the horse's hair DOES in fact look more well-groomed than her own. This surprises you, why?)

She was practically bursting at the seems in the car on the way out, every time I checked the rear-view she was in a giddy grin of anticipation. And suddenly, halfway there, right in the middle of a pop tune that I was trying to bond with her with by singing at the top of my lungs ("'I smell like a minibar. . . ' Goodgravyonabiscuit, WHAT IN GOD'S NAME ARE WE LISTENING TO?"), she burst into tears.

"Honey, what's wrong?"
"I forgot Hobbes and Kaleo."

Her favorite stuffies, the ones she sleeps with every night (one for three years running), the ones I didn't even put on the checklist because I assumed they'd be in her sweaty hands on the way to the car.

Oof. Too late to turn around, now. I thought for a few seconds, and realized at this age, I too slept with something -- my blanket. My beaten and soft pastel hand-made blanket that I put between me and my pillow every night, through camps, until college. It's in my son's room now, folded on a window seat. I realized if it 'twere me, I would spend the entire day stressed out that I wouldn't be able to fall asleep that night. I knew she was going to be on a horse that afternoon, and did not want her remotely distracted. So it took about twenty seconds of silence from me and snuffling from the backseat:

"I'll drive them back out this afternoon. They'll be there by bedtime."
"Thanks, mom."

We join her today, on her birthday, for a family attended barbecue that she drew the menu up for, and a cake decorated with dogs that she designed. She will eat too much sugar, she will not want to come home.

She will be seven.


Coincidentally, at my Aunt's farm, we will also be at the very spot where 11 years ago today Mr. ABF and I got married. Right there, under the tree in the meadow. It was beautiful, and more importantly, the food was outrageous. Little did we know.

I had this strange moment recently driving by the local IvyU on the freeway, where the touchline on the soccer field practically abuts the right shoulder. I drive by here all the time, but I had Bella in the car and we were en route to her first pro soccer game so it compelled me to say, "Bella, I played soccer there once. Right there, on that field." And I looked up and realized only then that the field is in the shadow of Children's. To think I played there, as a young woman, in the shade of a building that would someday come to house the most absurd and tragic moment. With that guy I was dating. It's these moments of hindsight foreshadowing that sometimes make me catch my breath: I mean obviously it wasn't, who knew, it was just fucking luck. Like the luck that conspired to place me and my future husband together at the same place, and the luck that held off the rainstorm right at 5:30 p.m. on the afternoon of our wedding (when it poured a mere two miles north). Just luck, good, bad, indifferent. Sometimes you can't even know when you're in it.

"For better or worse . . . "

We glossed over those words, figuring we had sorta met both obligations when Bella was born on our anniversary four years later. But no, not even close. Not even in the same universe.

I try not to play the game anymore when I wonder what a moment foreshadows. It's altogether too frightening. I'd rather sing bad pop music and look at wedding photos when I was smaller and wildly innocent.


Today Janis is remembering Ferdinand from her new home. She is an entire country away from the place where Ferdinand left her, and came to her, and left her finally. (Although given the East coast heat wave, she may wonder how this is so different from the desert she left behind.) I had no way of knowing about Ferdinand four years ago today, when I struggled to keep my composure during a very thrown-together party for Bella. No way to know as sad as I was, scooping ice cream for hot children in bathing suits who would picturesquely strew themselves around my porch to eat, that someone else was sad, too. The deepest kind of sad. I couldn't have known, but now that I do, it seems obvious. Now I think of Janis and Ferdinand often on this day, while I flip through my own memory books of Bella growing bigger and us hinting at gray, because I know that story, too. Strangely enough, it fits right in with my life, perfectly.

Happy Birthday, Ferdinand.
Happy Birthday, Bella.
Happy Anniversary, Us.