Fourteen

Yesterday, Celia turned 14. The celebratory slumber party will take place tonight. We’ve spent the morning picking up movies, snacks, and enough beauty supplies to make the entire neighborhood sparkle. Slowly, and a bit hesitantly, Celia is moving towards womanhood. It scares me silly.

At 14, I subscribed to Young Miss (igniting my life-long passion for magazines), twirled a baton and played in the school band. I had a best, best friend I still meet up with when I head back home each summer. She’s the one I call even now when I get good news, or bad, and she knows me well enough to know the difference without my uttering a word. At 14, I was a year away from a relationship with a young man who would bruise my mind and soul–I still fantasize sometimes about marching up to him and telling him that he didn’t keep me down for long. But it doesn’t matter.

At 14, Edwina was already learning to use her body to support the basics–food, warmth, a ride to somewhere. She’d learned to dodge the drunken slurs served up by her momma and daddy. At 14, Edwina was two years away from leaving school, from making the choices that would influence the woman she would become and the kind of life her own child would have when he hit 14.

In some corners of the world–more than I prefer to acknowledge–14-year-olds are married and on the cusp of motherhood. They have reached their educational potential (assuming any schooling whatsoever was available) and are expected to take on the roles that their mothers, sisters and aunts have modeled for centuries. Or, like the girls at Mighty Nepal, they are already fighting to salvage their reputations, badly bruised by experiences that were not under their control.

Fourteen.

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