by jane arie baldwin
I wanna be eleven again
Wanna believe in heaven again
Feeling safe in my home
Touch the face of the unknown
It was with me all day
And we give it away
Lyrics from Eleven Again by Beaver Nelson
Last night Ruby came home from a concert at the House of Blues. The performers were kids her age (11) and a little older. I will admit, I had expectations; WE – both Jimmy and I – had expectations. We figured she’d go and see how much fun it would be to be performing up on stage and come home with a burning desire to write songs and beat her drumsticks on every piece of furniture.
Yes. She came home excited and amped up but all that energy quickly turned into an eleven year old angst that only eleven can have – that, “Not a girl, not yet a woman” mentality that makes the current moment feel cheap and that future moments are everything that’s missing.
But rather than help usher her out of this moment, I wanted to sit with it and remember eleven, remember where I made decisions in moments like this that went on to affect me long after. I wanted to let her sit in her discomfort at not yet being a grown up and me in the discomfort of not having all the answers for her. I wanted to absorb the enigmatic power of eleven that sits on the cusp of a perceived brave new world of possibilities that happens later, after right now. To her she sees that time as when she finally becomes a teenager. For me, when I was eleven, yes, I longed to be sixteen, then twenty-one, eventually realizing that it is that yearning for something more, better, different that reinvents itself after age is no longer a factor, it never ends.
I can’t tell Ruby that, she doesn’t want to hear any of my philosophical mumbo-jumbo. Right now all she needs are my two ears listening to her, maybe a cup of mint tea and a foot massage. I feel safe. I have learned to provide those things for her and also learned that loving attention goes a long way to soothe the soul.
Suddenly she cried out, “Mom, say something! You haven’t said anything to help me!”
I froze in place, shifted my eyes left and right as if looking for the answer somewhere in her room.
“Um, well how about an exhale? It will at least get some new oxygen in there and help shift your perspective into…”
“I don’t need any Michelle Obama advice right now, Mom!” she interrupted, “And don’t tell me to write a poem about it, okay! I don’t write poems, I can’t tell stories — I’m eleven!”
She fell on the bed in tears and I slowly brought my hands back to her feet and ran my fingers through her toes like she likes as we both sat in the discomfort of the beautiful and underrated age of eleven.