I remember being twelve years old . . .smart, brave, funny, and having endless energy. I was always hungry and I ate a lot. When I looked in the mirror I liked what I saw, especially my long straight hair. I wore it like Cher and thought I looked like her. Some of my girlfriends thought so too. At twelve, in the early 70s, that was a compliment. I loved school, my friends and my family. A teacher is what I wanted to be, maybe a singer, and definitely a mom.
In elementary school, I ran with a pack of little girls who spent recess chasing boys on the playground and taunting them with songs about kissing in trees, definitely boy crazy. But in early middle school, I gave it all up, left the crazy behind, and began to genuinely like boys. They were my friends and sometimes my best friends. I’m sure I loved these boys, but not in a puppy love, I want to be your girlfriend kind of way. Nope, it was definitely a hormone free zone. Sex and relationships were not even a blip my radar screen. It was that moment in time and space, that tiny window in a young girl’s life, when love came from love and nothing else. It wasn’t earned, won, bargained, stolen or lost. It just was. . . pure and simple.
Some of the boys I loved were sandy haired and tan, many of them were surfers. Smart boys with a good sense of humor were my favorite seat partners in class, and they liked to sit with me too. We were quick to finish our work so we could hide behind our textbooks, eating salted pumpkin seeds, telling jokes, and suppressing laughter until we snorted, making us laugh even harder.
Some of my favorite boys hung out with my best friend’s brother and lived in her neighborhood. I often spent the night at her home enjoying the freedom of loose house rules and absent parents. We played late night games of hide and seek and ding dong ditch, watched scary movies, and ate a lot of crap, most of which we cooked or baked ourselves. The best part, my favorite part, was the late night talking. I have always loved the talking. Some nights we didn’t sleep at all, spending the early hours just before dawn helping the boys fold and band newspapers for their paper routes.
My memories of this time are so vivid. I can close my eyes and see their faces, hear the chatter and the laughter. But what I remember most is how I felt. I can actually conjure up the feeling. I don’t know a better way to describe it other than I felt powerful, worthy and strong. I knew who I was and who I wanted to be. The memory of these feelings is so deeply rooted in me that when I observe young girls interacting with friends, I can sense in an instant if they are in that place, that space that I remember so well. I want to whisper in their ear, Think of how good you feel about yourself, right here, right now, memorize it. Lock it into your heart because life is going to happen, the whole boy girl thing is going to get really complicated, and you want to remember who you are . . you are smart and talented and beautiful and strong. You have a purpose.
There are a million reasons why we lose our way. Maybe for a minute it’s important to examine how and why that happens. But, for me now it’s more important to find my way again, to spend my love and energy on people and work that keep me true to myself.
Over the years, I have lost and found that twelve year old girl many, many times. This is what she taught me today. . . .The kind of love I experienced then was never meant to be a fleeting moment in time and space, only to be remembered fondly, not at all. It is simply the truth, and the truth doesn’t change, love comes from love.
You see, it isn’t enough for me to find her, I have to be her . . .worthy and strong. Twelve year olds are so damn smart.