A question for my female readers over the age of 15:
Would you go back to being 12 again?
OK, you can stop screaming now. I am absolutely confident that the thought of living through that year or so makes you want to leave the room and begin drinking. Even if it is 6am. And you're underage. Or your medicines contraindicate it. I don't care how old you are, you still remember. It's a horrifying idea.
The year The Little Cuter turned 12, I was sitting at the kitchen table writing the 10 or so holiday cards I'd send to my close but far-flung friends. "I'm doing...... TBG is....... The Big Cuter's so...... and The Little Cuter is trying to survive being a 12 year old girl."
TBG, reading over my shoulder, was appalled. How dare I? It was pure projection. Just because being 12 was a nightmare for me didn't mean the the same was true for our darling daughter. It was inappropriate and unsuitable and I should stop writing it.
I let him finish, which surprised him. I was calm, which really made him wonder. I just asked him to go to work the next day and pose the question to the first 5 women he encountered.
The phone rang before I had breakfast on the table. It was the phone call wives dream about but seldom receive. "You were right. I was wrong. I'll never say it again." It seems that he'd nearly caused a riot merely by asking the 30-something muffin seller if she would go back to being 12 again. Women from the line converged around him to tell him their stories and to swear that it was the worst time of their lives.
And it certainly was in our house. One day, after we'd fought and argued and hugged and cried and screamed and were just at our wits end, I asked the Little Cuter if it was as confusing inside her as it was for me out here. "I'm just a confused youth," was what she sobbed back to me.
I remembered that I'd once been twelve and awful. G'ma's response to my email relaying another outrage proved it. It was one line : HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
As TBG explained it, the problem was that I was on the planet and breathing at the same time that she was. Like Cary Grant in Holiday, "Courage," was the best he could offer.
And it was enough, for the most part. Because even when my actual inhaling and exhaling drove her to distraction, she still liked me to give her a back rub to help her fall asleep at night. She always wanted me to drive for field trips and to away games. I knew she was proud of me and what I did because she told me - "I sooo love that you are President". And because Seret told me that I had an absolute right to expect politeness, I was able to hold on and hope that it was just a phase.
Like when she wouldn't wear anything that matched? When she was Cinderella and I had the cleanest kitchen cabinets from 3' to the floor? Not really. As I said, it was a hope.
By the time we saw the Women's World Cup in the Rose Bowl we were fine. We camped and took the Coast Starlight and went to Las Vegas and to Ukiah 2 weekends in a row to play soccer. The worst was over, but I wasn't ready to relax. Not quite yet.
Then, the summer after her sophomore year in college, she invited me to drive back to California across Route 80. "We always said we were gonna do it with the twins or DandK and we never did and don't you want to do it with me??????????" So we got in the Civic did it.
2358 miles. 7 states. 5 days. 0 arguments. None. Not a raised voice or eyebrow. No huffing or sneering or snide comments. We listened to each other's music and I wasn't too much of a side-seat driver, and we had the most fun ever. I missed taking pictures of more Welcome To Our State signs than I should have, but she laughed. We had the worst club sandwich and drove through hours of snow in the mountains in May and the Little Cuter got locked in a hotel bathroom and had to be battering-rammed out and we were just so glad to be with each other that none of it mattered.
No, I wouldn't go back to 12, again. Nor, I'm sure, would she. But if we needed to do that to get to this, then I guess I'm going to have to let it go.
Happy Birthday, Doodle. You're the best little girl in the whole wide world.
"Don't Worry. Be Happy."