five years old.
a wobbling mass of uncertainty
perched haphazardly on a bike.
daddy holds me upright,
his strong hands refuse to let me fall.
pedalling, pedalling, faster and faster
a weight releases
at last, I'm flying.
six years old.
first day of first grade
I clutch onto my mom's hand
so many children, both familiar and stranger
letters, numbers, a line on the wall
a smiling teacher. I let go of her hand
sit in a green desk, grab a crayon
one last glance out the door
but she is gone.
ten years old.
suspended in the cool water
skis strapped awkwardly on my numb feet
a lifejacket rises tight around my neck
my mom behind me, holds me
right side up in a firm embrace
suddenly, a massive force
pulls me up out of her comfortable arms
through the deafening spray of the water
my mother cheers.
I'm gliding, and I've never felt so free.
sixteen years old.
my hands caress the steering wheel
dad's in the passenger seat
cautious, careful, I proceed
the open road ahead of us
we pick up speed, but then
a deer. his hand grabs my shoulder
my foot slams on the brakes.
I'll pay more attention when I'm driving alone.
we take a breath. we're safe.
eighteen years old.
I scan the crowd as I sit in
my crisp blue robe. my strange square hat.
no more unfamiliar faces.
just layers and layers of memories
blended on top of each other.
my name is announced
I stand up, cross the stage,
again, a mass of uncertainty.
again, awkward in my high heeled shoes
my dad holds my mom's shoulder
my mom clutches his hand.
once more, I'm forced to let go
in order to move forward.
a diploma replaces my mother's hand
crushing realization replaces my father's security
again, I'm flying
but things will never be the same.
graduation is so bittersweet.