I travelled the land of tween-dom over 30 years ago. The roads were rough. Raw and tender, full of emotion. Details from junior high are impressed like a collage. White Ked sneakers, Hostess Ding Dongs at recess, and origami folded notes on lined paper, passed in the hallway between classes. The metallic clang of locker doors slamming. The beating of my heart as Whitney Houston warbled over cafeteria speakers. The hope that one boy would ask me to dance, the fear that different boy just might. The 45 single of Ah-ha’s “Take on Me” spinning on the record player in my room. The hot scent of a curling iron in the bathroom. My first frosted pink lipstick from Long’s Drug store.
Now at 43, I’m driving a hybrid station wagon with three post-school-day 12-year old boys. Backpacks are heavy, piled next to water bottles rolling with soccer balls in the back. Their bodies, damp and sweaty, have shed the morning’s excessive application of Axe or Old Spice deodorant. Hands are now free to pull out smart phones and swipe through text messages between friends. No more paper notes in penciled scrawl. That’s so 1900’s.
I’m so out of my element. I lived this age once, but everything is different now.
I contemplate the streets of Prague. The foreign territory I explored last year was so completely different from the place that I call home. Yet, in spite of another language, and the street signs I couldn’t read, the roads seemed easily familiar. There was comfort in ancient brick and mortar. Something solid that could hold me. Architecture held a promise that it wasn’t fleeting. Despite the time, this would stay.