Monday, March 17, 2014


It was a big weekend for the kid. In fact, after this weekend's various beautification rituals, it may not be appropriate to call her "the kid." She may have done gone and raised herself into "young lady" territory.

Nah. She'll always be the kid to me.

Friday was haircut day, a ritual for us the first free Friday afternoon between swim seasons. After receiving her standard cut, my normally shy daughter, who can barely order her own food in restaurants and generally doesn't speak to adults unless spoken to (and sometimes not even when spoken to, if she's in a mood) piped up and asked our stylist for curls for a birthday party she was attending later that evening.

Our hairdresser worked her magic, twisting adolescent hair expertly around a curling iron and applying enough hairspray to give the planet an asthma attack. The end result were glamorous, voluptuous waves cascading down the back of a girl who looked red-carpet ready. When she glimpsed her finished 'do in the mirror, Ainsley's smile said it all:

I am beautiful. And I'm maybe just now realizing that.

There was no reflective surface left unloved on the drive home, and as we saw her off for a sleepover with her fellow swim girls, she radiated a confidence and grown-up aura that made her mother's eyes get a little misty.

Cinderella had exchanged her soot for glass slippers. It won't be long before the princes (and the frogs) come knocking.

As these things generally do, the temporary curls longed for a more permanent companion. After a traumatic ear-piercing attempt when Ainsley was four, a mistake that promptly led her to swear off earrings for seven years, the kid decided to take me up on an offer I made last year:

Whenever you decide you want your ears pierced, we'll do it. Just say the word and I'll take you before you have a chance to chicken out.

Saturday afternoon, she said the word.

This time, there were no tears. Just joy at another rite of passage. And just like with the curls, the transformation was bigger than the act--my pre-teen looked several years older just with the addition of a tiny bit of bling.

I shudder to think of what the first visit to the Clinique counter will do.

When she spends long hours cuddling with Lumpy, her favorite stuffed animal, or making endless arrays of rubber band bracelets with her Rainbow Loom, I can forget that she's on the cusp of womanhood. One foot, wearing a pair of Day-Glo flip-flops, is firmly in the world of children. The other, wearing tasteful but fashionable Sperry loafers, is in the world of women. She still plays the part of "girl" really well. But more and more frequently, the young woman she's going to be peeps out from behind the rainbows, peace signs, and glitter. It's a beautiful and terrifying transformation to watch; once she steps over that threshold, a part of her is lost to her father and me forever. She'll always be our daughter, but there's only a fleeting moment of her life when she's our little girl. It's a sweetness that only lasts long enough to break your heart.

Oh, dear. These next few years are going to be tough.

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