Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Curly Top Crew

It seems that no matter what our age we idolize those who are older than we are. Currently I tend to admire my sister, Ashley, her husband, Ben, my parents, and, as always, Oprah Winfrey. My list is actually quite a bit longer, but it’s interesting how those we look up to changes over time.


When I was 6 years-old, my father could do no wrong. In pre-school as we circled around Nilla wafers and apple juice I argued with Robin (that crazy kid) over the fact that my dad really could lift a house, and no I was not making that up. My dad could lift me onto his shoulders with the greatest of ease and make me feel like a princess.


When I made it to real school, the cool kids were the upper graders. Attending a small Adventist church school with only two classrooms left me few options, but I never seemed to notice. The “upper grades” were the 5-8 graders and they awesome solely for being in 8th grade and being bigger than me. My brother and sister were always a few years ahead of me, but I only took to liking them recently. They teased me enough as I child, so I believe this is only fair. Plus, my brother busted into my room and showed my 2nd grade boyfriend my Barbies, and well, that can never be forgiven.


My cousins Jake and Angie have always been my favorites. I don’t actually have many cousins, but this definitely does not rule them out as awesome. I mean, they were in high school and they drove cars. Could they be any cooler? Sometimes Jake would let me shoot his sling shot at tin cans or push me on the swing over the canal at our grandpa’s farm.


Basically, at every stage in my life, those older than me have always been revered and admired, just for the fact that they were older and seemed so put together. Looking at my 22 year-old self, it hard to imagine that I am that to anyone. I’ve been chasing everyone else’s coat tails for years, and being “all grown up” just doesn’t look like I thought it would.


“I still feel like I’m twelve years-old,” I told my twelve year-old cousin, Destaney, today. “I thought I’d feel a lot cooler at twenty-two. Live it up babe.”


When I am home to Colorado, scarce as it may be, I try to spend some time with three particularly wonderful cousins who are about 10 years younger. Destaney is Jake’s twelve year-old daughter. Oriel (eight) and Cosette (almost four), belong to Angie.


Jake died six years ago of cancer when Destaney was only six years-old. Mom and dad had split shortly after her first birthdays, and so now Destaney lives with her grandma and grandpa, Jake and Angie’s parents. All the girls are awesome and easy to love, much like their rockin’ parents I looked up to as a kid.


I like to believe I can be something to these girls. While Destaney models her skinny jeans, Converse shoes, and new cell phone, I can still remember holding her as a baby and that makes me feel slightly wiser. She says “nifty” at least 15 times a day, she estimates. Apparently it’s the “perfect combination” of words meaning, “cool, neat, and awesome” all at the same time. She and I showed up at Angie’s this morning as she was heading to work. After that it was a girls day and we took full advantage of it. We named ourselves the Curly Top Crew, because they said we all have “ridiculously gorgeous” curly hair. We danced to the “Toast Song” and collapsed on the floor when we grew tired. Destaney and Oriel made breakfast, while Cosette and I read a Strawberry Shortcake book. The girls ate their French toast and drank up the excessive amounts of maple syrup with their spoons. Can you imagine the impact it would have of them if I said, “Now girls, if you want to be pretty and skinny, you can’t drink maple syrup?” How could I ever tell such beautifully perfect little girls that they are reduced to a body? They’re little girls. At exactly what age does it become acceptable to attack ourselves with such brutality? I want to save them from it somehow. So instead I just watched, amazed at their glee over a sugar high and the amount of syrup stuck to their faces.


After I got four year-old Cosette off the toilet, which might as well have been a stage because of the vibrancy of her songs, we walked to the park. As we walked Oriel told us a story about a time when she was left alone in the car and a scary-looking man approached. “What did you do?” I asked.


“Nothing.”


“Here’s what you should do next time, “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH! Scream as loud as you can. Let’s practice,” and we did. Loud and clear, shrill screams into the winter air of the mostly empty park. The geese sure took notice.


We played in the park as I amazed them with my incredible ability to loop the swings over the bar. We frolicked around the playground, until Cosette’s finger’s were cold, then we walked to the library. As we went to check-out our books, little Cosette had picked up some video game magazine with a half-naked cartoon girl on the front. I swiftly replaced it on the shelf, sadly aware of how early these images are put on kids.


We walked home and chatted about crushes on boys and mean teachers who give too much homework. Cosette slipped her hand into mine as we strolled. My knees buckled under me as I looked down at the little curly haired tot casually navigating the big world in front of her. Incredible.


For lunch we had cereal, Spaghetti-Os, and egg nog. We started cooking up some amazing concoctions that turned into a spa experience. We smeared oatmeal/honey/pear/milk face mask onto our skin, soaked our hands in milk and sugar after scrubbing with our cornmeal/lemon juice concoction. Between bites and applications, we made a wonderful mess. To round out the day we watched a Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson video and painted our nails.


“Explain Jeremy to me,” Destaney asked on the drive home.


“Explain him? Do you mean ‘describe’ him?”


“Whatever.”


“Well,” I began, “One of the best things about Jeremy is, I don’t have to try so hard. I don’t have to look a certain way or act a certain way. He loves me for me. That’s how you find a winner.” It felt good to tell her that the most amazing thing I could ask for in a boyfriend is someone who loves me for who I am. I want good things for her too.


We drove through the chaos of Denver at night, weaving in and out of traffic, singing outrageously to Stevie Wonder and “Accidentally in Love” by Counting Crows, while shoulder-dancing. As I went to drop her off “Landslide” by the Dixie Chicks came on, one of Jake’s favorite songs.


“I don’t know if it makes any difference, but I want you to know, every time I hear this song I think about your dad,” I told her. “In fact, I think about your dad a lot. I miss him. I just want you to know that I haven’t forgotten about him, none of us have. And it’s okay if you miss him too.”


“Thanks. I know,” she said as she stepped out of my car, the twelve year-old wonder that somehow turned into a little adult while I was away at college.

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