One is a squirming burrito of tears, laughter and dirty diapers.
At least that's how her mom put it.
Two is much the same, though more mobil,
spiced with gurgled mamas and dadas.
Three is a blossoming vocabulary.
The latter a word she'd eventually learn can’t always be fulfilled.
Four starts preschool.
Play dates, the alphabet song, the days of the week.
At five the girl starts to become a person,
complete with a developing identity of her own.
As a six year old the girl is in kindergarten.
A door has opened to the scary world of independence.
Life as she'll know it begins to take shape.
She can read a bit and count to one hundred.
She's dead certain she knows what she wants to be when she grows up;
a veterinarian like her dad.
She declares six to be her favorite number.
Her mom points out that the day before her favorite number had been five,
and a year before that it had been four.
In 365 days it would surely be seven.
The girl definitely shakes her head.
To this day, six is her lucky number.
When she's seven the girl proudly educated her class on the holiday of Hanukkah,
spewing random words in Hebrew as if she's fluent
when in reality she has the vocabulary of a two year old.
Much else, she's probably making up a definition.
But it's her first in a line of presentations, eager to show off her heritage.
At eight the girl's aunt passes away.
She doesn't know why and never learns.
For years she's afraid to ask.
She's never known someone to die.
She tells herself it's all a bad dream.
She'll wake up,
and the aunt who introduced her to more knew foods than anyone else will be there.
She's still waiting to open her eyes.
She can't taste spaghetti without wishing this dream would end.
Nine brings about the toughest teacher in her elementary.
Her future AP classes owe it all to him.
With double digits comes a new recklessness.
The girl is caught cheating on a test.
Her first and last time getting in trouble with a teacher.
She is unwilling to endure the wrath of god--her teacher-- ever again.
Eleven means middle school,
a new world of drama she never expected.
A phone ushers in social media,
which alerts her to all those parties her friends forgot to invite her to.
Next time you'll join us.
Next time never came.
Her Hanukkah presentations come to an end because in middle school,
different means a target on your back.
At twelve she learns a painful lesson.
BFF does not mean Best Friends Forever.
Simply, best friends for awhile.
When she's thirteen the girl develops her lasting appreciation for the performing arts.And a fleeting appreciation for that cute boy in her class. Her first crush, Stupid and laughable. She hardly remembers his name, let alone why she found him so facsinating.
Fourteen is a for sale sign in her lawn and the promise of new friends elsewhere. Not that her old ones notice her absence.But do her parents not see how hard it was for her too make the ones she has?High school is scary, but she's found a passion in the arts. Her veterinary dreams faded but sweet. But soon comes the pressure, crushing her to tears.
Fifteen brings a therapist who says words like anxiety and depression. The girl pretends she knows exactly what they mean,partially because she'd hate to admit to trouble with vocab,and in part because she doesn't want to know there's something wrong with her.But very slowly, things start to look better.
Until sixteen drags in a relapse, throwing her back into the pit. Her mom says,"sweetie, you know if something happened to you I wouldn't be able to go on." The well-meaning confession makes her regret opening up. She wanders through the hallways of her school and smiles to her friends, waiting for someone to notice that she is drowning. They never do. Eventually she stops waiting for them to do anything. What would she ask them to do?Fix her? She wouldn’t recognize herself anymore.Not without the fear and sadness circling her eyes like mascara.
But the year is not without its perks.
As an upperclassman, she finally feels a place in the school.
She has friendships she's secure in.
And then comes her first crush of high school.
Her first ever heartbreak.
With that comes guilt and humiliation
because how dare she become the kind of girl wracked with jealousy
when the boy holds hands with some blonde the girl knows isn't that into him.
How dare she fantasize about his freckles when he would never see her that way.
It's okay, dear,
male attention is so foreign in any form,
of course you'd mistake kindness for flirting.
But one day, you'll forget him.
Even his name.
Just not before he's long forgotten yours.
The girl is seventeen.
She does not know what's coming next.
Only a vague outline.
Graduation and College at eighteen.
New faces and new friends when she had to fight for every friend she has now.
Another graduation at 22.
Hopefully a job and her first boyfriend somewhere in there.
Numbers blur, no longer concrete and formulaic.
What comes next isn't known years in advanced
but she knows it all leads up to her name on a tombstone.
Her name echoing less frequently in her children's throats,
then never again.
When, finally, the girl is nothing more than an age.
Two dates with a line between,
A number carved into stone.