Oh Zo. You are 11 and the world is a crazy beautiful mess. At 11 you are just beginning to see this. My heart breaks for you, that you have to wade into knowing that things are not always right. I can see it sometimes there at the corner of your eyes, the knowing. I wish I could stop it, but that is not my job. My job is to hold your hand as you see it, to help you celebrate the blown-egg fragility with resilience and a fine Welsh dark humor.
The other day you convinced me to let you ride in the front seat while I drove us back from the city. It changed the dynamics immediately to have you sitting right there next to me. We sang to Gwen Stefani and cracked jokes as if we were friends. Which we are, but I am careful about that, about everything, and the next time you tried to get in the front seat I said you couldn't. It's not safe yet, I said, and I can't help but wonder what would be the harm of putting you in a rear-facing 5 point harness? (I used to have a friend who said that growing up he and his brother made fun of his cousins because their parents made them wear helmets in the car. Is this such a bad idea??? Why do we all not wear helmets in the car?)
Middle school must be getting to me. Sure, it's 4 months away, but if you have taught me anything, it's that time means nothing. You are still 4 months old yourself, Smurf-faced baby girl, and in 4 months you will be in middle school where the stakes are higher. Pretty please can we find a cute first-day-of-school outfit that goes well with a helmet?
Don't stop talking to me, I tell you, whatever you do, please keep talking to me. The hormones have not yet fully kicked in so you squeeze my hand and tell me you will. Seriously though, I say, because you still let me be earnest, you can tell me anything, I am your safe place. Even if you think I will be mad, talk to me. I will help.
This is me at 44: I am bewildered, cautious, ferocious, tired. I grab your hand to cross the street. This is you at 11: you are kind, sweet, silly, smart. You grab my hand to cross the street.
Sweet girl, the world is a crazy beautiful mess, and I wish I could tell you (tell myself) that middle school will be ok, that the world will not shock you with how painful it can be, but I can't. But I can tell you this: by far the most shocking thing to ever happen to me is how much I love you. It far exceeds everything else, this relentless tender truth that is you.
Happy birthday, Zoey. As much as I wanted to, I didn't get you a helmet for your birthday.
I love you,
9, 8, 7, 6, 5 (too pregnant and cranky to write), 4, 3, 2, 1 (pre-blog)