Girl with Kaleidoscope Eyes This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

February 15, 2011
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I was six years old and free as a bird, spinning beneath the hot Maryland sun. Arms stretched out, palms turned to the sky as if they could catch the light and hold it forever. Eyes closed, cheeks flushed pink, hair glinting with highlights of red and gold from the bright sun. Round and round and round, the sky spun like a kaleidoscope above me. I collapsed to the ground and watched the sky continue to spin, jerky and slowing, as if it were a toy I had broken. The grass was baked gold and prickly against the bare skin of my arms.

I was never a hothouse flower; my petals weren't easily torn. Switching my roots into new soil was no problem, and sicknesses were fleeting. I ran bare-footed through red soil and green grass and let the sun slowly change the color of my skin. I caught frogs and butterflies in my hands but ran from the praying mantis that folded its bishop-robe arms on my grandmother's porch. I ran in a cotton sundress through the heat of the summer day, laughing, and tasted the soft, sweet nectar of honeysuckle that remains my definition of summertime.

You couldn't ruffle me, then, with anything. I was sturdy and sure and confident, a hardy little wildflower growing among thorns she could not see. There was a roof over my head and food and love, and nothing could change what I had.

Is it funny, then, that I seemed to grow more frail as the years passed? That I lost some part of that wildflower child in the upsetting act of growing up? That when I was 17 and stood in that exact same spot, I couldn't spin but only stand, stronger in some ways, weaker in others, and constantly afflicted with the menace of wars and politics that only vaguely concern me.

On that day I realized with a flash of pain that I was no longer six. Melting crayons and tangled hair had needed to be changed, replaced. The cross around my neck might symbolize my faith, but it hurt to know that it would never be so simple, so innocent, so unquestioning again. It took me so long on that cool October day, beneath the Maryland sun to begin (so slowly) to spin.

Kaleidoscope sunset skies melted with the emerald green of treetops until all I could hear was the Beatles playing in my head, crooning on and on about pools of sorrow and waves of joy. Each spin seemed to take an hour, a day, a year to complete. The sky above whirled slowly, and the ground beneath dipped and rose again with each step, comforting and familiar and as much a part of me as the soles of my feet, this land I had walked so many times. Coming back seemed, in that moment, to be the only answer I needed to the questions I'd been asking myself all year. Except for the niggling fact that they answered nothing, that there was no knowledge I gained from spinning in the same place, in the same way, as I had when I was six.

I know as little about myself now as I did then. Maybe less. But as I collapsed to the ground, my dog's face looming above me in a silent, curious question of “Why, exactly, are you on the ground?” I realized that there was nothing about myself I really needed to memorize.

Not yet.

Not at seventeen.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Irene said...
Apr. 15, 2011 at 4:13 pm
I really liked this piece! It was so heartfelt and I loved your imagery. It was so uplifting and melancholy at the same time. Great job!
LissaBee This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Feb. 22, 2011 at 4:23 pm

Just to clarify

"Never was no problem" was supposed to be "never was a problem." I guess I accidentally submitted a pre-edited copy to the website. Whoops... : \ 

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