Standing on the threshold

By Kris Ferrazza | Jan 12, 2018

Don’t ask what came over me. The only explanation I have is that the devil made me do it.

I was driving along and my daughter and her friend were in the back seat of my car when suddenly I had a great idea.

“Hey, girls, isn’t this Jimmy’s house?” I said, gesturing toward a white farmhouse. I knew it was home to a cute boy in their class.

“Uh, yeah…” they responded.

“Well, wave, girls!” I cried, then leaned on the horn.

Honnnnnnnk! it blared

They looked at each other in horror, then hid their faces in their hands. Soon peals of laughter erupted from the back seat.

“Oh my gosh, Mom, you are so embarrassing,” my daughter gasped. “Why would you do that?!”

“That is so wrong,” her friend said, shaking her head in disbelief.

I had no good answer, except that my dad used to do it to me when I was their age. He would roll by my beloved’s house in our family truckster and yell, “Kris says hi!” then lean on the horn. I would hit the floorboards of the station wagon, dropping completely out of sight. I was mortified, so now it is my turn to share the love. Did I need any other reason?

The girls refused to discuss it further. Apparently our convo was over, as the kids say. I was grinning like an idiot. The whole thing was so uncool and embarrassing. I felt like I’d finally arrived as a parent.

As a kid, I never could understand why my parents did some of the things they did. Now I realize it’s because they could. Sometimes you’re the windshield; sometimes you’re the bug.

My daughter, Elizabeth, at age 11, is at a crossroads. She uses technology like a pro, yet still wears footie pajamas. She’s my height and does long division, but is afraid of the dark. Her 12-year molars are coming in, but she still checks under her pillow for gifts from the tooth fairy. She’s a tween.

This struck me hard recently when a friend and I took our girls to a tea party. They dressed up like the little ladies they are, and brought along their dolls. We had tea and crumpets, drank from dainty china with our pinkies extended, and had a fun, girly day. So imagine my horror when, that same weekend, a neighborhood boy asked my daughter to “go” with him.

“What does it even mean to ‘go’ with someone,” my daughter ranted. “We’re not even old enough to ‘go’ anywhere. I mean, we’re 11. We don’t have cars or licenses. We can’t go on dates. What’s the point?”

I sympathized with her, and frankly had been dreading this moment since the day she was born. It was a shock to my system to go from the carefree tea party experience to pre-adolescent angst, all in the span of a few hours.

She let the sweet boy down easy, telling him they should just be friends. But not a month had gone by when she presented me with a flier about a school dance. What the heck?

“Are you interested?” I said, silently praying, “Say no, say no, say no!”

“I dunno,” she said. “Let me talk to my friends.”

That was the last I heard about the dance, so life went on, with work and school and appointments. A few weeks later I was at Lizzie’s 11-year checkup with the pediatrician when the subject came up again.

“Tonight’s the dance,” she reminded me, as we waited in the examining room. “I think I do want to go after all.”

Checking the time, I saw the dance was in two hours.

“What?” I said. “You barely have time to get ready. Are you sure?

“I’m sure,” she said.

The nurse came in and informed us some shots were due. My daughter recoiled like a toddler.

“If you can go to dances, I think you can handle a couple of shots,” I sulked. Once again we were on the threshold. I held her hand, and she took her shots like a champ.

“I’m going to a dance tonight,” she told the nurse matter-of-factly, like she does it all the time.

“Good!” came the response. “All that movement will be good for your arms.”

Back at the ranch, I was curling Elizabeth’s hair when I started to remember my own experiences at middle school dances. I thought it best to share some motherly advice.

“So, if a boy asks you to dance, do you think you’ll say yes?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she shrugged.

“A fast song might be OK, but no slow dancing with boys,” I advised.

“Ew,” she said.

“And don’t let anyone take you off anywhere, or kiss you in a corner,” I warned.

“Mom…” she said.

“I’m just warning you,” I said. “I know how things go at dances.”

“Are we done?” she said, checking her hair in the mirror. “I think that’s good.”

A wave of emotion hit me. She looked so grown up, but only I knew that under those stylish clothes she had My Little Pony Band-Aids on both arms. This was happening too fast. It all felt wrong. Truthfully, I wanted to forbid her to go to the dance. So I did what I always do. I took a breath and listened to my mother’s intuition.

“Yeah, we’re done,” I said, then drove her to the dance.

And the beat goes on.

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