with a birthday coming right up, i thought it would be fun to post one picture from each decade of my life so you could all watch me age. it would be hilarious. you could laugh at the terrible glasses i have worn with no irony whatsoever at various times in my life, and giggle over how i clearly had no idea what to do with my kinky hair. (the answer, which it took me years to figure out, is nothing. just let it kink.)
but i got stopped before i even started this exercise when i thought about posting a picture from my teenage years. i just couldn't do it.
yes, those years are far behind me now, and i'm more confident and i laugh more and i did finally grow into those thighs (and why did they have to grow first?). but when i look at pictures of that frizzy-headed girl, too shy to talk to pretty much anyone, let alone an actual boy, and too cowed to confront authority, even when she knew it was wrong...something inside of me just clenches up. i feel bad for her. i don't want to expose her to any more trouble.
it's hard to say now why the teen years were so difficult. i remember them acutely, and i remember the feelings quite clearly, but i can't say that i understand them any better now than i did then. perhaps part of it was getting lost in the crowd and in the sadness--i had nine siblings, but my oldest brother died the year i turned 10, and that terrible loss changed the family dynamics for a long time. my father withdrew from the family. my mother couldn't control everyone, and the older kids started experimenting with drugs, getting pregnant, running away from home...
my mother kind of washed her hands of them all and decided to "start over" with the three little kids. i was too young to rebel, too old to be a little kid. so i just kind of went my own way. i read a lot. i wrote stories. i took long walks by myself. when i was 14, i got a job.
i look now at my nieces and nephews, and how gracefully they seem to have slid into adolescence. they're strong and good-looking and funny and confident. they are much smarter than i was at their age, about all kinds of things--politics, and the environment, and their own place in the world. i asked one of my nieces a couple of months ago if she still wanted to be a veterinarian when she grew up. she scoffed. "i don't know what i want to be," she said. "maybe a paleontologist. maybe a biologist. every little kid wants to be a veterinarian when they're young." she is 13.
anyway, you don't get pictures of me at every decade because if i published a photo of myself at 14 i would have to shut down the blog and have you all killed.
instead, you'll have to make do with this picture of me at age 6. that's half of us standing there in front of the zoo sign. i'm the one making like a Rockette.
i remember that those tennis shoes were red. i remember it as though it were yesterday.
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