Sunday, February 8, 2009

No More Pink Plastic Ballerina Cake Decorations

Emma's 16th birthday is past, but I am still trying to understand what has happened. I have been studying these pictures several times a day, looking for clues. Well, I have to give partial credit to the dress. I like looking at the pictures because that dress makes me feel unrealistically optimistic about the world. I think it affects others the same way, because a lot of people noticed her and smiled when we were at the grocery store that day.

The other reason that I feel compelled to look at these pictures, I think, is because she sees this birthday as her "coming out" into young womanhood. That is why she insisted that we go out and "greet the dawn of her 16th birthday" and why she asked if she could now "receive suitors". I look at these pictures and wonder where and how she will fit into this world when she leaves our protection. I feel a little scared and a lot sad at the prospect.

And my husband, my friend, can not help me, because he does not really see what is happening. When I told Herb about her request to receive suitors, he said, "She's just teasing."

I didn't have the heart to contradict him. It's not that she has anyone in mind or that she is even looking for someone, unless you count fictional Mr. Knightly. I understand from our conversations that what she desires is some concrete recognition of her emerging womanhood. Our culture no longer affords her any positive way of expressing this. So she looks to Christian cultures of the past, that she has discovered in books like My Heart Lies South. I got her an autographed sequel for her birthday.

Then there was the thing about the cake. Emma has had the same pink plastic ballerina figurines on her birthday cake almost every year since she was three. This year, she said that it would be the last time because next year she would be too old. A dagger went right through my heart!

She is not all grown up, though. Last week she cut out and colored a Regency-era paper doll and a wardrobe to go with it: I still have some time with my little girl.

I must make the most of it.

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