I woke my daughter up this morning. I watched her pick out just the right shirt, and just the right jeans that go with that particular shirt, and just the right pair of Converse (she has multiple pairs of Converse). I watched her curl her hair, swipe on some mascara, and head out the door to catch her bus to seventh grade.
And I shut the door behind her and promptly burst into tears.
Tomorrow is her last day of twelve, you know.
When she was little, we developed a fine tradition. Not only did we celebrate birthdays, but we also celebrated the day before. When she turned eight, we spent the whole day before being as seven as we could possibly be. We really packed it in!
We made multi-colored pancakes for breakfast and melted miniature candy bars on top of them. We rode bikes in the rain. We dressed up in all my clothes and had a fashion show. We even dressed the cat, as I recall. We went back outside and stomped in puddles. We played video games. We sang off-key and made up words to songs. We ate way too much junk food and laughed entirely too loud everywhere we went. And when I kissed her goodnight and tucked her in, we agreed that seven had gone out with a bang, no stone left unturned. We were utterly and magnificently seven.
The next year, her Dad and I sat her down one month before her ninth birthday, and told her he was moving out on Friday, and never living with us again.
She decided a month later that she really didn't feel like being eight one last time. She was ready to be nine already.
But I wasn't. I wanted to be eight with her. I wanted to revel in it, because I had been living vicariously through her all this time, and it was such a heady thing. I never wanted to let it go.
Mostly, though, I wanted to not have had to tell her that her family was broken. I felt like we ripped her childhood away, or part of it, anyway. She didn't say goodbye to those earlier years anymore after that. Oh, but I did. I did.
And tomorrow, I'm going to spend the day wishing, oh, how I wish - that we could be twelve together. Which is silly, really. Her Dad got her an iPhone two years ago. If I want to be twelve with her, we'll sit side-by-side on the couch and stare at our phones all day. And fight with her brother. And slam her bedroom door and tell me I don't know anything.
And then later on tomorrow night, we'll crawl into bed side-by-side and maybe say "I'm sorry" or just reach across and hold each other's hands. And we'll talk about our day and how much our English teacher annoys us and how we're not dating Mario even though everyone thinks we're dating Mario (even Mario), and we'll show each other stupid pictures of cats and funny memes on our phone and we'll talk about the someday when we're grown and we can travel the whole world. Because we will.
Until then....I'll revel in her last day of twelve, even if she's sprinting as fast as her long legs will take her toward that finish line into thirteen. I'll be back here, waving the pennant and shaking the pom-poms and cheering her on.
I can be twelve enough for the both of us.
You just keep shining on, my girl.