Turning 12

Remembering the monumental, mind-blowing pre-teen moment.

My twin boys turned 12 in the beginning of January. We celebrated small, since big parties stopped when they turned 10. We always thought maybe we’d do something for the “major” years like 13, 16, 18… Jesus, I’m going to need a sedative.

Twelve doesn’t seem monumental. Yet it is.

The amount of change kids experience during the last year of preteen glory is mind-blowing. When I think back to 1982, the year I spent as a 12-year-old, my transformation was truly extreme. Granted, my children live in a different time, and are a different gender, but they will probably feel similar pangs.

I’m not so far removed that I don’t remember what it was like to be young, confused, and convinced I’d never learn how to shave properly.

The first half of the year, I attended seventh grade at Young… was it a middle school, seventh grade center, or junior high back then? The summer came and went. I spent the second half adjusting to eighth grade at Adams Junior High.

Who you are going into your twelfth year is very different from who you are when it’s over.

In the beginning of the year, I played the flute. Toward the end, I french-kissed a boy for the first time. Couldn’t get a pleasant sound out of either.

In the beginning, kids called me Casper because I was pale and kind and sweet. In the end, they called me Lucy, because I looked like the cartoon character from Peanuts, and often acted like her, too.

In the beginning, I wore a feather in my hair until the principal banned roach clips in school. In the end, I was chewing on cinnamon toothpicks until the principal banned them for causing hallucinations. That’s when I learned students weren’t supposed to be happy.

In seventh grade, I wore parachute pants and shoulder pads. In eighth, I wore blue eyeshadow. And wondered why I was alone. In the beginning of my twelfth year, I had no breasts and drank milkshakes with raw eggs while doing “Increase My Bust” exercises. At the end of my twelfth year, I had no breasts and drank milkshakes with raw eggs while doing “Increase My Bust” exercises.

In the beginning, I couldn’t stop reading Dear God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume. In the end, I couldn’t stop reading Forever by Judy Blume. And still wondered why I was alone.

In the beginning, I felt scared to be in the house by myself. By the time I entered junior high, I was babysitting the kids across the street and paying them 2 percent of my salary to get lost.

In the beginning, I loved Golden Earring and Lionel Richie. In the end, Duran Duran and U2 consumed me.

In seventh grade, I rode my bike everywhere. In eighth grade, I was tagging along with Becky’s older sister who taught us how to make dresses out of garbage bags.

In the beginning, I was watching On Golden Pond with the whole family. In the end, I was sneaking into 48 Hours with Cathy.

In the beginning of my twelfth year, I was smoking Yves St. Laurent menthol cigarettes. At the end of my twelfth year, I’d moved on to Camels and fancied myself a badass.

In the beginning, I wanted my dad to go away. By the end, he had.

In the beginning, I wasn’t allowed to spend the night at friends’ houses. In the end, I was sticking bras in freezers overnight with the best of ’em.

In the beginning, I wasn’t thinking a single profound thought. At the end, I was filling up an entire diary.

In the beginning, I listened to my parents’ radio stations. In the end, I discovered WMNF.

In the beginning of my twelfth year, friends faded from memory as soon as I left school. By the end of my twelfth year, I’d met those who would play a major role in the rest of my life. As I guide my children through their own transformation, it helps to remember back 30 years.

Wow. Thirty years. That’s definitely “major.” Where did I leave my sedatives?

Catherine Durkin Robinson can be found online at www.outinleftfield.com and cltampa.com/dailyloaf.

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