When my friends and I arrived at the beach in early August, my dad and little sister picked us up and my sister, aged 12, exclaimed, "Yay! Finally I have people to play with!"
She's at that funny age right now, where she isn't quite a teenager, but is very aware of how she dresses and acts in public. And yet the little girl part still manages to shine through at odd, dazzlingly un-self-conscious moments on her part. Sure, we twenty-somethings would love to play with you--after all, isn't that what people do when they get together?
She text-messages constantly, and at the beach she wore Ray-bans and a string bikini and looked very grown up, despite her braces. But she still wants people to play with, and I'm sure she still talks to her stuffed animals in private.
I remember when I was this age--every part of me clung to, lusted for the last little joys of childhood. I never wanted to leave my dolls, little animals, and my picture books, all of which I adored. I played with them in secret long after I'd ever admit to doing such a thing. I wasn't at all interested in boys or dances or things like that. Even into my late tweens, nothing was more exciting than the prospect of getting a new doll. However, I'd swear my interest in dolls was a higher, perhaps even meta-interest; that of a doll connoisseur, a collector, rather than a child. Around the age of eleven, I started to read "big" adult-y books by Hugo, Dostoyevsky, first-person accounts of the civil war, which backed my street cred as a mature being. What, play with dolls? Nonsense, let me get back to Les Miserables, I am, after all, three-hundred pages in! No time for dolls. Behind closed doors it was a different story.
Even to this day I still feel pangs of love for my dolls; as I was cleaning my room in my parent's house, I really couldn't bear to part with a few old friends.
Those tween years were a sad time for me, because I was just so painfully conscious that it would all very soon be lost. I wonder if she, too is sad, or whether, blessedly, she feels more ready for the onslought of hormones and high school girl-politics than I was. I hope she is.
On the way home we stopped overnight in New York, and her sole request in all of Manhattan was to go see F.A.O. Schwartz to play on the big piano. When we did get around to mid-town and I showed her the store, she did all but jump up and down. Annie is already pretty tall for her age, and it was immediately clear that she was one of the rare few tweens onsight. So she looked, did not touch. Admired, but did not express any want. She wished to see the big piano, which was shown in the Tom Hanks movie BIG, which she'd seen once on TV. When I saw her wait on line to go on the piano, she seemed pretty sad. I told her that I didn't want to take off my shoes, so she'd have to go alone (and besides, I had to get it on film!). She must have felt a bit like Tom Hanks did in that film, torn between the person her impulses say she is, and the person she is inevitably becoming. I hope she takes her time.
Here's the movie of her on the piano, taken with my new camera that adds a beautiful vintage-y haze to all the pictures and videos it takes. It's actually really difficult for me to watch how she hesitates, teeters between really wanting to just play, and being aware that she's taller, older, too "big" for this (and also in front of a camera).