Friday, November 02, 2007

Leaves of Change

Not too long ago, maybe four or five years, my oldest daughter knew about boys. She knew there was something wrong with them. They were carriers of germs, they were gross, and they made sounds with their body parts.

When she was younger, she spent some of her most magical years on a cul-de-sac in Georgia. Enormous pine and magnolia trees lined our street, a forest behind us and a lake full of fish and snapping turtles just beyond the path at the end of the road. I remember her covered in the Georgia clay from an afternoon excavating, and I remember Sunshine, the turtle who became our family member for some years; I'm sure he missed the homey confines of his swamp.

Two doors down from us was the old tractor tire on a rope. Tied to a gnarled tree branch, this was where the neighborhood kids met each day. Games were planned under this tree, strategies made, and the bonds of friendship strengthened to match the weathered trunk of their tree.

Both of my daughters led a posse of young girls called the Spy Club. To the untrained eye it looked like several little girls running through all the neighbors' yards, bright green tree frogs in their fists. But if you looked closer, or found their spy logs in their room as I did, you saw that they were always on a mission.

Excerpt from a "spy log" found in my daughter's room, circa five years ago:

Spy Log, Sunday

Spy Club members need to to these things:

Practice running silently
Practice saying awooh-ha-ha. At the right time.
Spy on Liz.

After lunch: Looked at Liz through her window.
She was writing on some paper.
She put a Lord of the Rings Poster on her wall.
She saw us!
She called us imbisults. [sic]
Stupid Liz.

One afternoon, the day my daughters were grounded for the first day in their lives, I had Jacob in a baby carrier and was enjoying a late afternoon walk on our street. I saw the Spy Club girls digging in the soil near a neighbor's house, and I saw a little boy watching from his window, his face pressed against the screen so hard I thought it might pop out onto the ground.

As I neared the house, it became clear that this boy was watching the Spy Club girls dig, and it was also clear that he was sobbing. I approached the house and called in my best mom voice, "What on earth is going on?"

The girls stopped. My daughters looked up at me with dirty faces and I thought of how they always seemed to resemble a street urchin out of a Dickens novel. They were silent. The boy in the window hiccuped.

"Well?" I pressed.

"They told me I was a stupid boy. They told me I couldn't be in their," he sniffed. "They said they were going to bury me there and no one would know."

I stood there, stunned. My little girls, with their quick grins, yellow fluffs of hair and sweet dresses skimming skinned knees were digging a shallow grave. It marked the first time I had grounded them.

I sit here and wonder how that day was three blinks of an eye away, and yet also a lifetime. My oldest is now preening in her bathroom, carefully sponging on strawberry lipgloss as she adjusts her beads around her neck. She was up early today; when I came downstairs she had already made her bed and offered to help her little brother with breakfast. She is carefully watching me, waiting to see if I will say yes. Waiting to see if she can go and ice skate tonight with a group of seventh graders, to include her crush. The boy who now likes her, and has asked her to go in this group.

The old magnolia tree that stood sentry to my house in Georgia dropped thick leathery leaves onto my driveway for much of the year, and then one day I would notice that the entire tree had exploded into a crown of white blossoms. Spring was glorious in the south. I need to remember that.


Jessica @ A Bushel and a Peck said...

That is a lovely post. I know that in the blink of an eye, my daughter will be all grown up too...good luck.

headless chicken said...

Wow! That was an eloquent post! Love the last two sentences. Beautiful!

Mrs. G. said...

Lovely, lovely post. A word of mother advice, if she really wants to go skating (and it sounds like you are going to let her go), you might mention how much you enjoy chauffering when the bathroom is CLEAN. I'm always one step ahead, you know.

Audubon Ron said...


Barb Kaiser said...

This was a lovely post. It reminded me of my own childhood, sans the shallow grave.

We just told our brother he was an alien and we would throw him out the window, but not to worry....the space ship was sure to catch him before he hit the ground! What is it with kids?

studio4moms said...

And here I was thinking that raising kids was a lot like making compost: a lot of stuff goes into it, you can't see much difference for a long time, and then, something wonderful that really contributes comes out of it! (at least to us gardeners:) It was a lovely can compost those magnolia leaves.

Mary Alice said...

tee hee. I remember that. Those were the good old days. I miss the innocence of that time...and the fact that on Friday nights we tucked them into bed and instead of chauffeuring them around town to facilitate THEIR social lives WE sat out on the patio and had a glass of wine together!

AnotherMomCreation said...

That was a wonderfully well written post.

Good luck with the ice skating. I can only imagine how that must make you feel right now.

Jennifer said...

I can see that, already. How it all goes by with a blink. *sigh*. I mean, I can still feel the way it feels to be in 7th grade, getting ready to go skating with your crush. How can I have kids heading there in a matter of years? *sigh*

(Digging the grave has me laughing, though I know it probably shouldn't! Ha!)

suburbancorrespondent said...

Oh, boy - don't you hate that first moment when you realize that your own children can be just as mean as the other kids?

And I'm with mrs. g. - milk it for all it's worth.

Nancy said...

Such a beautiful post.

I hope you let her go ice skating.

Jen M. said...

I'm letting her go. BUT I will be popping into the rink at least once before picking her up. I promised her she wouldn't see me, but the point being she doesn't know when I will do it. Sigh - I'm sure that's too much hovering, but I can't help it. She gets to go.

And 17 it is, she'll try to whittle that number down and my husband wants to pay her $10,000 to not date boys until she's finished college. He's only partly kidding. Lucky girls to have us as parents, huh.

Sarah said...

Gorgeous post.

BetteJo said...

Wonderful post - your daughter is blossoming like the tree!

But oh the part about the shallow grave was priceless! The things we wouldn't believe until we saw them with our own eyes!

Beck said...

Oh, my HEART.

Lorelai said...

If I could only write once in my life how beautiful you write. Simply a beautiful post which reminds me of my own daughter.

Lela said...

My chica is hitting that age as well. I miss the days she used to skip around the house singing "Blues Clues".

Daisy said...

Oh, sigh, how quickly they grow! I hope you kept a few of their spy logs. You know, to share with her fiance when she's about the get married.

painted maypole said...

sweetly told (except perhaps, the buring the boy part. yegads. that is like something straight out of a book!)