Walk The Line


When I was around 12 years old, my family went on a camping trip “out west.”  Among other things, we stopped at Four Corners, where four states (Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado) come together in one place.  I remember feeling strangely powerful, like I had accomplished something, when I stretched out arms and legs to be in all four states at once.  But it also made me think about how intensely small my place in the world was.  I was a speck, tinier than a grain of sand.

Twelve-ish is a time for feeling both big and small, isn’t it?  Last week I went to a middle school celebration ceremony (the students had completed their Drug Abuse Resistance Education program).  During the evening, each 6th grader was presented with a certificate.  As the kids crossed the stage, I marveled at the variety of shapes and sizes and types I saw.  Some looked like they should be back in elementary school, some looked like they could drive themselves home!  Sneakers and haphazard ponytails shared the stage with high heels and make up.  The dichotomy of this time of life – you are little, and you are big – swirled around me.  It was beautiful.

Pianist Paul Sullivan composed an emotional song that captures this tricky time, called Clara’s Dance.  He was inspired to write it when his young son’s babysitter was in this season of life.  Give it a listen – your heart will tug.

The dance of the pre-teen played out before my eyes again after a recent trip to the mailbox yielded two magazines for the 11-year-old in my home.  The American Girl doll catalog, and Teen Vogue (both came unsolicited).  I peered over my daughter’s shoulder at the cover of Teen Vogue and pinched my lips together as I read the teaser “Bad Trip – the real deal with the new It drugs.”

Wait, what?

Wait, what?

Yikes!  I am so not ready for this, I thought.  But apparently, neither was the 11-year-old.  She brushed both magazines aside, but later asked me, “Where is Kit  [her American Girl doll], anyway?”  The next day, while gathering up laundry I saw something I hadn’t in years:


And my heart was glad.

Most of us remember this particular stage of life, when you are both little and big, with some tinge of poignancy.  We want to reach back in time and say to ourselves:  don’t hurry!  It’s not as great as you think over here!  

Perhaps that’s why coming-of-age stories are perennial favorites.  We can relive that time through someone else’s lens, distant enough to not feel all that pain, but close enough to realize we aren’t the only speck out there, and that it’s a pretty nice beach to be on after all.

11 thoughts on “Walk The Line

  1. Awww! Miss you, too. That is one of my all time favorite memories. Of course I also use it as a lesson to my kids in not taking advantage of people! I definitely felt guilty taking that dime home. Ha ha.

  2. Nancy… Somehow I am just seeing your response to my message today. Brought tears to my eyes! I would love nothing more than to read your stories and to have our kids meet. I’ve used our lemonade stand stories with my boys, too – karma lessons. I told them how I was trying to get the lion’s share of the pot by claiming I needed the bigger coin (a nickel) because I was saving up for something. You happily agreed and took the smaller coin – a dime. 🙂 Miss you and our Welch Rd. days, my friend!

  3. Ditto! More than once, a character in my stories has been named Melanie, because when I’m thinking about that time, you always come to mind! If/when one of them makes it to print I’ll send you a copy. ; ) Also, V recently told me, “I’d like to meet this Melanie some day” after I told yet another ‘lemonade stand’ or some such story.

  4. Kay – your family certainly lived in some fun places! Anywhere you haven’t been? I can’t believe you still have the doll clothes – what an absolute treasure.

  5. Glad I spent those difficult years knowing I had you on my side! Can’t believe our kids are almost there. Terrifies me sometimes.

  6. You were in the Southwest at the same age as I when we lived in Albuquerque! We traversed the Southwest for 2 years and to this day, I remember it with awe!

    Kate, like I did, still loves her doll! I still have doll clothes my grandmother made for my dolls with bits of fabric from her and my grandpa’s worn out clothes.

    You have every right to fell joy with both of your children!

  7. So poignant Nancy! Middle school was my least favorite time and as my oldest approaches this tween stage, I find myself holding my breath. So many mixed messages out there. But there is lots to be gained on the other side–it is as you say, “a pretty nice beach.”

  8. Patricia – We are lucky in these parts, sixth grade is it’s own school! Not sure how long that will last (it happened because of a districting/numbers shake up years ago, I’m told). For now, it’s a beautiful design. Kids transition academically while feeling safe socially. But still, there are some serious developmental differences in that one school!

  9. I remember making that same kind of camping trip “out west” with my family when I was 14. I stood at the place. At 14 I was interested in Seventeen Magazine, but still liked Anne of Green Gables. My daughter is 29 now, and I thought I had it tough with cell phones and a computer. Wouldn’t want to deal with all of the technology kids have today. When the educational system created middle schools, and put 6th graders in with 7th and 8th, I thought it was so wrong. Children in 6th grade don’t need to stay with elementary, or be separated as they make that transition. They aren’t ready for the tough world of middle school, dating etc. I prefer the older model of Jr High (7-9th) and Sr High (10-12th). My daughter wasn’t ready for the dramatic change and she was exposed to things way to early. Sorry, this is a subject that is close to my heart. I don’t see the point in pushing kids. Let them be.

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