Last week, my daughter had a birthday. It was the last single digit birthday in our family. It makes me... melancholy. It's not that I don't want them to grow up; I do. I just miss what they were. I especially miss when my younger two would nap on me, one on each arm. Ahh...
Anyway, a birthday for my daughter means a sleepover, so our house was full of little girls Saturday night. My boys, wisely, chose to be elsewhere. In the evening, we took a walk down by the creek so that I could show them all the sights like the entrances to Goblin Town and the Troll Bridge (for those of you that have been around for a while, you'll know that I've talked about these places in my Let's go for a walk... series). They got to see ducklings in the creek, troll nests, the special flowers that allow you to hide from trolls by covering up your scent, and, even, a goblin dashing into one of the entrances to goblin town. Okay, well, I'm the only one that actually saw the goblin, but I didn't make it up! Honest. Most of the girls have been exposed to my book, The House on the Corner, so they expected stories of trolls, I suppose. During the walk, many of them came up to me to whisper, "I believe..."
But this story isn't about the sleepover or the walk.
My daughter has been asking to get her ears pierced for years. Long ago, we made a 13-year-old rule. This rule came about because, at about age 6, my oldest son wanted to get his ear pierced. We felt this was too young. 1. He was only six, and that's a little young to be making permanent life decisions. 2. There was no way he would be capable of taking care of his ear while it healed. So we made him wait. It's one of the few things that he has steadfastly held to in his life, the desire to get his ear pierced, so, when he turned 13, we took him to get it done. Mostly, he was able to take care of his ear on his own; although, with him, it was kind of like having them brush their teeth; you have to tell them over and over and over again. Every night. I mean, we still have to check in with him about how long it's been since his last shower (because, at 16, we kind of think he's old enough not to have to be told to go take one, unlike his younger brother whom we have to badger into the shower under protest every time).
But my daughter's not like that. She's the only one that will spontaneously take care of her teeth without being told to. Not every night, but, sometimes, when we start telling them to go brush, her response is, "I already did," and a breath test bears that out. Unless, you know, she's just sucking tooth paste from the tube. And she has her own established showering schedule that she adheres to in an almost religious manner. She even makes sure that I know when her laundry hamper is ready; whereas, the boys will often get up and discover they have nothing clean to wear (and let me tell you, those discussions are so much fun).
We (meaning my wife) decided that we could break the 13-year-old rule for ear piercing, because my daughter shows all the signs of being able to take care of her ears while they heal without us having to be on her about it (unlike, say, her accordion practice) all the time. So, on her birthday, we took her to have her ears pierced (as it turns out, she was the only girl in her class with unpierced ears, which may explain why she has been so desperate to have it done). She was quite brave about the whole thing, and the lady doing the work was surprised when she sat through the first ear and let her go on to the second ear. Evidently, most girls break down after the first and don't want the second one done. However, after they were both done, she did want a hug, so that was nice.
The piercing lady showed my wife and daughter how to take care of her ears after that. There are a number of options for cleaning, but the simplest, really, is Q-tips. That's not what the woman demonstrated with, but we figured that they would work best. The only issue is that we don't really keep Q-tips around. We only had a small bag of them left over from the move last fall and had never bothered to buy more. But my wife showed my daughter how to dip them into the solution and clean her ears with them anyway. Which brings us to the night after...
One night after the piercing and my daughter heads to the "grown up" bathroom to get her own Q-tips for the very first time. She retrieves what she needs, cleans her ears, and cleans up after herself. My wife asks her if she needs any help. "No, Mom..." My wife asks her if everything is okay. "Yes, Mom..." There is so other discussion mostly centered on my daughter exerting her independence and ability to take care of everything on her own. Except for one thing, after everything else has been said and done, my daughter pipes up with, "Oh, but, Mom... we're almost out of ear twigs."
I was so glad that I was where my daughter couldn't see me, because I laughed. I mean, I really laughed. But I also loved it. "Ear twigs." That is so awesome. Like I said, we don't keep Q-tips around. No one had called them by name. My daughter gave them a very sensible name. That's what we call them now. She doesn't know they have another name, and that's how we want it. I'm sure, at some point, she'll find out, but we love "ear twigs," so we haven't told her.
And isn't that what writing's about? Looking at something and making it your own. Taking something normal, common, cliche and twisting it just a little to make it interesting and unique again. I could care less about Q-tips, but I love ear twigs. You shouldn't be surprised if they show up in a story some day. At least the term even if they aren't still cotton swabs.