Remember the movie from 1988 (I checked, I did not remember) called “Big”? A 12-year-old boy, probably a Jewish boy, judging from his name which was Josh Baskin, wished he was big. Josh awoke the next morning, (played by 22-years-younger Tom Hanks) with the body of a grown man, a 30-ish looking guy.
And since he is “big” he ventures out into the world. His heart and mind and understanding of the world is still that of a 12-year-old boy, but he is “big” and goes out to navigate the world, with the world understanding him to be a grown man. As I remember, (I looked on the internet but did not re-rent the movie) there are funny scenes; he gets a job, he decorates a New York loft to suit his interests as a 12 -year-old boy. The movie is a fantasy with some very funny scenes. But it is fantasy–not only the premise– that someone could wake up to find themselves fully grown, but the emotional plotline. Over all Josh is not frightened or lonely as a 12-year-old would be, to be in those situations. Fun, but total fantasy.
My girl is suddenly “big” with feet that can practically make do with my adult shoes. She often wants to dress like me (this flatters me) and wants me to dress, at times, just like her (this stymies me, though we do figure out some version for me sometimes, of her amazing outfits, conceived of entirely by her– the things she wears and wishes I could truly replicate).
I was late to grow as a child– and until mid-high school was considerably smaller than many girls my age. My mother recently brought two dresses of mine from when I was young, for my daughter. One is a floaty, aqua blue drop-waist dress with a knife-pleated skirt and a large sailor collar that I chose for my eighth grade graduation. I was very small and skinny. The other, a simple grey wool jumper that I sewed and wore a lot at about the same time in my life. Although she hasn’t actually tried the dresses on, I can see that they are either just right for my daughter or maybe a little small. As a 9-year-old, she is about the size I was when I graduated from junior high.
On two separate outings recently we’ve bought my daughter two pairs of necessary new shoes, pictured above. One pair to start her career on the 4th-5th grade girls basketball team where she will play for the first time. Coached by her mommy, my partner. The other pair, a knock-off of Converse high tops, which I love, but cannot believe are now a style she loves.
She is big, but so needing the things that young people need; closeness, gentleness, lots of laughter and contact through rough and tumble physical play. The rough and tumble play, she needs– like every day, which is reasonable, though often hard to squeeze in. She is interested in all kinds of things– writing a blog, baking things, and she wants explanations of the many, many interesting things in this world as well as the terrible and the weird (like sexism and for example, the bizarre presence of implied sex and weird portrayals of women to sell endless merchandise, “why do they put a picture like that to sell….?” she asks).
Despite all this growing-up-ness, she often wishes I could still pick her up and carry her– a nostalgia I must admit I share. And a desire I cannot fulfill, but that I think is emotionally reasonable on her part.
Two things come into my mind. One is that she was days old when we went to Texas where she was born, to meet her and to bring her into our family. Very early one morning, sitting with my baby in my lap in the “living room” of our Embassy Suites hotel room, while my partner caught a little sleep, I called a close friend back home in the midwest. Happy to connect with this wonderful woman friend, also a mom, I cried, for the joy of having my new daughter in my life and in my lap. My friend said to me, “you can be this close to her, as you are right now, for the rest of your life. It is possible.” Her words have been among the words that have been like a north star for me as a parent.
Four years earlier than that June in Texas, before my daughter was born, we had a visit here from my sister and her two sons, when my younger nephew was just 11 weeks old. My partner, sister, four-year-old nephew, and new baby nephew and I were out on a very hot summer day, on the outdoor plaza of a museum. I got separated from the other three for just a few minutes, my 11-week-old nephew in a sling nestled against the front of me, sleeping. A woman about my age stopped me so warmly, assuming he was my baby and peered in and asked how old he was. “Eleven weeks” I said, proudly. She gestured to a boy, to my eye, a huge boy, across the plaza and said, “they’re just as wonderful and delicious at 11 years old, as at 11 weeks”. I loved her tenderness and have never forgotten that exchange between us; two women, one a mother, one still to be.
My girl is not 11 yet, but it is coming faster and faster and faster, and though I have a powerful nostalgia for the days when I could pick her up and carry her in my arms (which I did well into toddlerhood and beyond), big amazes me, but it does not, as my friend promised, mean the end of close or tender or full of love. And the replacement of tiny feet you can hold in the palm of your hand, with feet that are big, is nothing but the good, growing passage of time.