Girlhood

  

When I was three years old, I thought the lines of white exhaust trailing behind airplanes were the marks of the airplanes scraping the sky, like a scratch on one’s skin. Because it healed, you know, after the airplane flew on. The sky was resilient. 

When I was four, I had pigtails and slept on the top bunk in the little room I shared with my two younger sisters.

When I was five, I saw the movie Poltergeist and lived in fear of a sucking vortex/wormhole thingy opening up in my wall and flinging me to another dimension. I refused to go to the bathroom by myself for an entire year.

When I was six, my mom had my hair cut like a boy’s. I couldn’t pull off a pixie cut, even then. Strangers thought I was a boy. I hated it. My parents insisted it was cute. 

When I was seven, I rode a yellow banana-seat bike.

When I was eight, I got a perm and wore stirrup pants with big, belted shirts. I felt fierce.

When I was nine, I sat in the backseat of our car as we left the grocery store, and thought to myself that I had never been more alive or self-aware or observant as I was right then. 

When I was ten, I swam the breast stroke like nobody’s business on the swim team. I woke up at 6:00 AM on summer mornings, snapped on a Speedo, and dumped a swim cap full of cold pool water over my head, and I liked it.

When I was eleven, my dad and I paddled our red canoe around a bend of Lake Alice at dusk during a backpacking trip in Wyoming. A bull moose across the lake waded in on long legs and began swimming through the still water. At the midway point, the moose began dipping his antlers into the lake, alternating to the right and left and tossing great sprays of water into the air. He blew through his nose, misting the ripples around his face. My dad and I sat transfixed in our canoe a couple dozen yards off, as the moose finished crossing the lake and walked up the rocky beach and into the forest. 

When I was twelve, I crashed on my bike in Lincoln Circle and broke my right arm, days before starting seventh grade. 

When I was thirteen, I saw Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves SIX TIMES in the theater. 

When I was fourteen, I crashed while skiing across the icy parking lot of Brighton ski resort as the entire ninth grade watched from the ski bus. I broke my right arm again. This time, it needed surgery.

When I was fifteen, I had the fleeting thought that maybe someday all my children would be boys, and panic rushed through me and into my extremities. 

When I was sixteen, I read Gone With the Wind, The Thorn Birds, To Kill a Mockingbird, Angle of Repose, Pride and Prejudice, My Antonía, and Jane Eyre, and my life spread out broadly before me with unknown possibilities. 

When I was seventeen, I went fly fishing on the Provo River with my dad. He and the guide said that tradition dictated one must kiss the first fish one catches. As it happened, when I got a fish on my line and successfully reeled it in, they were both out of sight, upstream a little way. So I squatted down, lifted my wiggling Brown Trout from the shallows by myself, kissed it on its coolly iridescent side, removed the hook from its mouth, and set it back in the water. It swam away. 

When I was eighteen, my grandpa Milton died at our home early one morning, in my bedroom, which I had given up for him. My sisters and I crouched beside him as one long final breath left his body. It was the first time I understood that sweetness, pain, and love can form a single emotion. 

When I was twenty, I got married.

When I was twenty-one, I graduated from Westminster College, summa cum laude.

When I was twenty-two, I taught freshman writing and took the creative nonfiction seminar that awakened my yearning to write about life.

When I was twenty-three, I finished my master’s degree. When USU President Kermit Hall shook my hand at the hooding ceremony, he said “Congratuations!” and a fat blob of his saliva landed on my diploma.

When I was twenty-four, I had a baby and wondered how all women everywhere did this, because colic was killing us all and breastfeeding hurt like hell.

When I was twenty-five, I was the Young Women’s President to ten teenage girls, though I was scarcely older than they were.

When I was twenty-six, Jack was born. Nothing was the same after. It was harder. I had two red-headed children and one of them was developmentally delayed.

When I was twenty-seven, I began to accept that my life was unfolding differently than I originally planned.

When I was twenty-eight, we moved from a tiny house to a big one.

When I was twenty-nine, I was the Primary President, responsible for two hundred children. And thus began my dark chocolate habit.

When I was thirty, I swallowed my fear and had another baby boy, a fat little cherub. 

When I was thirty-one, I told Dutch that he must choose between weekly date nights or an inpatient mental health facility for the wife, which is how the religiously observed every-week date tradition began.

When I was thirty-two, I had two children who couldn’t be in the same room without the one named Jack screaming and throwing things at his baby brother. 

When I was thirty-three, I was in survival mode.

When I was thirty-four, I had my fourth baby boy and two of my children went off the rails in a spectacular explosion. And, fourth baby was premature. I started a blog. 

When I was thirty-six, I took a memoir class and met the nine women who are my writing group. Fate smiled kindly upon me when I found Blue, Beck, Emily W.S. and Emily M., Larrie, Sarah, Viv, Jennie La, and Amy. I submitted articles for publication and tah dah! It worked.

Now I am thirty-seven. I mostly feel like a steer wrestler, jumping off galloping horses and grabbing cows by their horns, forcibly flipping them to the ground. Except mine are children, and the wrestling is figurative, usually. I don’t wear Wrangler’s, but I occasionally have a self-possessed attitude of competence. 

Life is a good adventure, a dusty, sweaty rodeo which demands participation. 

I’m game.

  7 comments for “Girlhood

  1. Blue
    March 27, 2015 at 3:05 am

    how did we live before our Thing?!

  2. Bob Morphis
    March 27, 2015 at 3:39 am

    As another who savors the written word and the emotions which can be released by an artful gathering of them, I treasure your perspective, your energy and your honesty.

  3. March 27, 2015 at 8:59 am

    I love it! Is this a taste of what I missed last night? I’m so glad I know you.

  4. March 27, 2015 at 10:23 am

    I like that you titled this girlhood and included posts up through to today. Still girlhood.

  5. March 27, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    I love this! I love your words (always) and I love the photo and I wish I’d known you during those earlier ages too. So glad to know you now. xx

  6. Jennifer
    March 29, 2015 at 12:03 pm

    Oooh…I might need to copy this format. Love it!

  7. stacey
    May 1, 2015 at 10:13 am

    Love this! I grew up in a family of girls and worried about having boys, too. (I have two boys and two girls.) And I’m jealous of your writing group…

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