Her back was straight, a perfect 180 degrees, without the slightest bit of slouch that eventually comes after years of slumping back in chairs or hunching over cell phones.
She sat cross-legged on the high, plush white chair, her small body fitting on the seat perfectly. Her eyes were focused upward toward the television – why else would she be sitting so still? – but her face lacked the dazed and empty expression usually found on zoned-out high school students and brain-hungry zombies.
“I can’t believe how nicely she’s sitting,” Valentina, the owner of the ear-piercing studio, remarked to us. “Most of the kids that come in at this age are running all over the place, even with the television.”
My wife, Trudy, and I chuckled and shrugged. “The television is a big help,” Trudy answered, “but yeah, she’ll sit. I’m probably more worked up about this than she is.”
“Terrific,” Valentina said. “Maybe it’ll work after all.”
We had already been sitting and waiting for 15 minutes by that point but Valentina had us wait for another 45 before saying that we should get started. She hadn’t put much of the numbing cream on – the two dots were smaller than a pea and likely would have gone unnoticed by even the most sensitive of princesses. She said that she didn’t need much to do the trick but that the cream needed the full hour to reach its strongest potency.
It didn’t seem to matter much; our daughter, Shayna, still never moved.
Shayna had just barely started to get restless before the owner returned to say that we could begin. It was as though she had suddenly remembered where she was, looked around quickly and, in doing so, spotted the cylindrical glass vase full of lollipops. Satisfied with her choice, she went along with the owner into one of the smaller rooms as we followed.
Countdown to ear piercing, transition
She climbed into the seat and glanced around the room. I noticed her eyes fix on the splashes of pink furniture and the numerous framed posters of Betty Boop on the walls. Valentina donned a pair of surgical gloves, wiped off the numbing cream and replaced each drop with a tiny black dot from a marker. Any hint of anxiety on Shayna’s face was eased quickly by the frequent comments about what a big girl she was, how well she was sitting, how impressed everyone was, how exciting the process was.
Trudy knelt in front of Shayna with her phone up, continually snapping photos. Valentina and her assistant – who also happened to be her mother – stood on each side of our daughter with what looked to my untrained eye to be a large silver staple gun.
“Okay, Shayna, here we go,” Valentina said. “I’m going to count to five. One … two …”
A loud clicking sound replaced the number three as Valentina and her mother squeezed their guns simultaneously. They moved the guns away to reveal pale pink iridescent flower earrings in Shayna’s tiny lobes. Shayna looked surprised and confused by the sound but her brief moment of fear shifted quickly into a wide smile.
“All done! You did it, you got your ears pierced!” my wife said. “You’re such a big girl!”
“My did it!” Shayna said, oozing with pride as she looked in the mirror at her newly decorated ears. “My big girl!”
We laughed and took some more photos of the new tiny flowers. Valentina’s mother handed Shayna a clear plastic bag with cleaning gel, instructions and a certificate congratulating her on the occasion. Shayna thanked the older woman. She took the bag and began walking back toward the now-empty waiting area, still brimming with self-satisfaction.
I knew it was impossible for her to have grown any measurable amount over the past hour and a half but Shayna seemed … taller, somehow. Or older or more mature. Or some other adjective that could describe how she was suddenly no longer our baby girl.
She was looking and sounding more and more like a child every day, from her phrasing and enunciation to her gesticulating to emphasize certain words. I knew rationally that she still had more than six months before she would reach her third birthday but those sparkling flowers did more than just brighten Shayna’s face.
They brightened the faces of everyone around her.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Aaron Yavelberg is a father, husband, son, brother, cousin, friend, writer, social worker and part-time teacher. He lives in Queens, New York, with his wife, son and daughter. Follow him on his blog, Sleeping on the Edge, where a version of this post first appeared, and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Photos courtesy of the Yavelberg family.