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Pickle Me This

May 29, 2017

Age 8

I remember being eight. I mean, I remember being younger too, but eight is the earliest age I feel a connection to: that was me then. I did a public speech on sexist stereotypes and started being praised for my story-making prowess when I was eight. I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was eight, and now I am a writer. It was a very big year. Ramona Quimby knew as much. (A joke on the back of one of Harriet’s magazines: What did the zero say to the eight? Nice belt!)

And now Harriet is eight. How extraordinary is that? That the tiny little bundle I held in my arms so long ago, that nut brown baby with that perfect little button face, a simply beautiful infant (and everyone said so) has burst forth into this girl, this small woman, all arms and legs and laugh and gappy teeth. Irrepressible. Where did she come from? Where is she going? Whoever would dare to stand in her way?

She reads, all the time now. I think it was as recently as Christmas that I’d have to promise her there were pictures in a novel before she’d consent to read it, but now she reads everything—although she’d pick up the graphic novels or Archie comics first. They’re her go-to. Her books are piled all over her house, beside my book piles, and the other book piles. She is at home here, although her domain is up on the top bunk, which is hers and hers alone.

She can’t decide whether to grow up to be a rock star or a scientist. She devours books on animal facts. I never dreamed that being a mother would mean suffering car journeys in which I am dispensed fact after fact about toad sex. She still really loves hedgehogs. She makes up weird song lyrics. Last week she made up a song about city life with the lyrics, “Luxury condos and deluxe mini-vans” and I became concerned that I was not imparting our values. She wrote an alternate verse about apartment buildings and public transit to placate me. She is very understanding.

She has secrets. She has stories. I used to write posts like this on her birthday in order to capture her exactly as she is before she becomes a whole new person tomorrow, but she is old enough now that she cannot be captured. She belongs to herself and I am simply observing, albeit with wonder. I made her, but she has nothing to do with me. She is her own incredible self going out into the world, and when she gets anxious I remind her: “You are smart and you are brave.” She will figure it all out. The process being the very point, of life itself.

She is funny, she is silly, she is grumpy, she is moody, she is sullen, she is kind. And she feels things, picking up on subtle points, throwaway details on the radio from five days ago. Sometimes I think we ought to turn the radio down, but no. This is the world and we’re giving it to her, and she deserves to know what she’s getting. This is the world, all of it, and it’s our job to figure out how to love it anyway.

She is tall, she is gangly, she has freckles across her nose. She wants to get her ears pierced, which seems reasonable, except I am afraid the first punch will scare her and she’ll be too terrified for the second, and then she’ll be an earring cyclops. She’s a bit of a melodramatic. She still loves us, so much, and we adore her too, and admire her, and enjoy her company. Most days. It’s mutual. She’s an incredible sister, and while Iris is a perfectly admirable person in her own right, we have Harriet to thank for a lot of her goodness. Iris has learned good things from her sister, kindness, patience, and how to love. Although Harriet is growing up enough that now Iris is the person walking around the house complaining because no one wants to play dragon witch hunter with her, which is the role in our household Harriet alone used to occupy. But Harriet is off somewhere reading.

She was always herself. She is becoming herself. I am so grateful that she’s in the world, and grateful to the world for bringing her to us, and I love her. I remember how it took me a little bit of time to learn to love her, which was ridiculous now, but man oh man was it ever worth the wait.

2 thoughts on “Age 8”

  1. Joan says:

    Beautifully written Kerry. You said it all. Who wouldn’t love Harriet?

  2. JC Sutcliffe says:

    Lovely! Happy birthday Harriet.

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