on turning 10

Yesterday was Anna’s tenth birthday. Double digits, another “order of magnitude” as we say in my business, another interesting milestone. Anna’s birth always strikes me, especially when there’s snow on the ground and the memories of Anna’s first day seem to spill out.
The other aspect of this birthday is that Anna’s age pushes my own odometer forward. In particular, her 10th birthday marks the 10th anniversary of when I finished collecting data for my dissertation. Anna gets a line of dedication in the document as a result. A lot was happening, all at once, ten years ago. The joke of it is that I thought that life was busy then, but it hasn’t really let up. In fact, it just gets busier. Writing a dissertation is really something, but it doesn’t hold a candle to other projects, including parenting, that have to be juggled and kept in the air. Or maybe everything, in retrospect, seems easier than it really was.
But this entry isn’t about me.

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What I’m awed by is how Anna’s increasing age is something that she leads. It used to be that we, her mother and I, guided her through. Next year you’ll go to school. You can get your ears pierced when you’re eight (or 30, if it had been all up to me). But now I no longer know what to tell her will be next; she seems to already know and I just follow her lead. I’m in constant amazement in her wake, and I just hold on and surf the waters that she seems to cut through so effortlessly.
Anna’s perspective of birthdays and everything else is elegant. I don’t know how else to describe it — some combination of maturity with wonder. She’s delighted to get a new set of Legos as well as a sweater and new earrings. Her rich auburn strands of hair frame the backdrop for a violin and bow. And then she goes to sleep with the same doll she had as a baby. She probably doesn’t believe in Santa Claus anymore, but she doesn’t want to tell us as much. This is in clear contrast to Billy Collins’ more jaded, satirical tone on such an anniversary. Anticipating Anna turning 10, I used to think about trying to get a signed copy of the poem (yes, cliché) but as we got closer and closer to the event it just was less and less of a good idea. Anna just isn’t like this; there is still “light under her skin,” so close to the surface, in fact, that the glow shines through.