Yesterday I found a stash of old photos from my 7th grade at Roeper School. It was a important year in my life, and the friends I made there are ones I continue to cherish to this day, even the ones who are no longer in my life. My time at Roeper School was a charmed existence. The miniature people we were in those old photos lived in the moment in a blessed ignorance and unwitting bliss.
Life has a way of say, “Hey, check this shit out.” For on the very day my formerly 13-year-old friends and I are marveling over these lost photos online, my kids (11 and 13 years old) are playing out the same be-here-now game of blessed ignorance and unwitting bliss. Returning from “homeschool skate” time with a mini-van (please refrain from snide comments) full of 11-13 year old kids, I hear the echoes the same refrain, songs once sung by my young friends and me. That atonal blending of awkwardness and puppyhood hummed by kids who know each other so well but are now finding themselves spurred by the push of hormones to become re-acquainted in a new and different way.
Part of that 13-year-old girl takes up plenty of square footage in my soul, nevertheless I remain nonexistent in the mini-van. An Adult. An Other. So as I drive through town I’m able to listen in on their conversation as they navigate the terrain between them in the car. One boy says into the air, “Can somebody please explain to me why ‘Twilight’ isn’t the dumbest book ever?” But really he’s saying, “Can one of you girls please notice me?” The ol’ Obnoxious Comment as Girl Bait Move. I remember it well. I had plenty of girlfriends who took the bait, “He’s such a jerk…in a kind of cute way.” Personally I preferred the Goofy Comments as Girl Bait Move, like the sweet boy who would come up behind us, poke us with his knee, and proclaim, “I ‘need’ you.”
(Kneed – need, get it? Get it?)
At home now, the girls prepare the mac and cheese (the boys preferring clean up duty), purposefully scampering around the kitchen, making everything just so. Then the boys stumble in and make a disproportionate mess while spooning out their lunch. Girls at one side of the table, boys at the other. Girls jabbering away, picking over the minutiae of the book-to-movie transition process. The boys shoveling food into their mouths, grunting silly nonsense in an attempt to get a foothold into the girls’ conversation. Suddenly, the yammering stops and for the first time one of the girls directly addresses one of the boys.
“What are you doing?” she asks with genuine wonder and a twinge of contempt.
We all look over to see the boy is literally examining his elbow, poking at it here and there.
“I have a bruise, but I can’t find it,” he says simply, continuing to prod his elbow.
The girls are too sweet to make fun of him, but I can see their wheels turning as they tabulate the value of boys in their lives.
We go around disguised as adults walking in the footsteps of our memories. And our kids run ahead of us, looping back around to the past again. Parallel circles.