It’s often described as a tightrope, but that’s not terribly accurate. There is no risk of falling off either side.
This period of life, the immeasurable, undefinable, delicate space between childhood and young adulthood, is more akin to finding yourself in the middle of a meadow. It can be peaceful and pleasant but also foreboding. All depends on the direction of the wind and the light or absence thereof.
The meadow in the midst of youth and growing up is a vast space between two distinctly different environments: to the left, the lush forest up ahead with flora and fauna but with less light seeping through a thick canopy onto downed branches that lift feet high up to clear comfortably; and to the right, rolling hills dotted with sandboxes, faded pastel plastic toys, ladder ball, and four square courts.
The lions, tigers and bears back there are filled not with a fear of us but a quilted softness.
In this clearing, not everything ahead or behind is clearly visible. No one tends this meadow, not exactly. It’s left wild which is what makes it wonderful albeit daunting to navigate at times with pricker bushes, tall grasses, and more than a handful of birds of prey circling above. Occasionally one will swoop down with a thunderous approach and with no fair warning — everyone needs to eat.
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There’s a black and white one with colorful eyes, and people who see it say, “She looks 20!” Or “They grow up too quickly.” Or “How did she get so old?”
They aren’t wrong but the girl I see right this minute is cuddled up in otter pajamas watching little kid cartoon reruns with her younger sister. Straightness of hair, freshness of breathe, and time of day are of no concern. They laugh at all the same jokes from underneath a heated blanket on too high a setting for the temperature of the room.
The young woman I saw last night wore a burgundy leather jacket, tight black jeans with intentional rips strategically placed down her right leg, sparkling lip gloss, and fierce combat boots that announce her arrival with an aggression belaying her passive nature. She was 6 feet tall with her back arched, moving with a swagger I personally have never had the wherewithal to own. Last night, she stepped nearer the woods.
The 14-going-on-20-but-still-back-at-7-year-old is in the middle of this meadow. I’m there with her, alongside and holding her hand periodically, other times I lag a step behind her confident gait. We’re going forward and back, side to side, soaking up new freedoms, and observing the warmth of the sun on her changing face.
This is the best of both worlds, for a child and her dad.