Wednesday, May 22, 2013

being 14

On my birthday, a few friends asked what my favorite birthday memory was. I've had some good ones, like when my sisters flew out to surprise me on my 25th, my first one celebrated in California. And on my 30th I celebrated at the awesome house I live in right now, with all of my favorite people making personal pizzas and spilling out through the french doors that open from our dining room to our front yard. And when I turned 21, on Easter, my sister and then boyfriend (now husband) stayed up with me the night before and took to me to some bars at midnight. 

But the memory I kept sharing was from when I turned 14. I don't have a great story, or any super specific details. It was more the feeling of being seen and accepted. Growing up, I was a wallflower, or as much of one as I could be when I was taller than everyone else. That spring, during my 8th grade year, I played lacrosse, a game I loved. The popular athletic girls all played, too, and though we were friendly with each other, we were hardly friends. But that day, when I turned 14, during practice the team all made a big deal about my birthday. That's all I remember, really. Did they sing or do a team cheer or ask me about my celebration plans? I have no idea. But there was that feeling. I belonged.

It's possible this memory was so accessible because I'd just finished reading two books about 14 year old girls. And by happy coincidence, I just finished another. I love reading about girls at this age because so much happened for me during that year. Again, I don't actually remember specifics, but I do remember being able to make decisions for myself for the first time. I remember understanding relationships and consequences and desire in a completely new way. I remember deciding I would spend my life following Jesus and realizing that my childhood best friend was not just a convenience or coincidence but a friend who would stick closer than a sister.

I've been meaning to write about these books. They were all terrific, especially the second two. If you have an appetite for coming of age stories, these will satisfy you.

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore - Not as good as her short stories, in my opinion. The story is a little loose. But some really sharp writing, as always.

In Zanesville by Jo Ann Beard - Someone in a writing class recommended this to me, and they were spot on (thank you!). I loved it completely, maybe in part because I could devour it on the plane rides during a trip east, where I was visiting my best friend, which relationship reminded me so much of the one in the story.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides - part family epic, part coming of age story, it's told from the point of view of the narrator at age 41, but the second half is set at age 14. This one is so so good - the Pulitzer committee and Oprah both thought so, too!

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