Rediscovering the Bravery of Your Young Self.
From the top of the tree, I could see everything.
Branches softly swaying while squirrels, only two feet away, nibbled on crabapples. This is what I loved the most, being up high and seeing a patch of blue sky.
With my limber legs and remarkable sense of balance, I could climb the tallest tree. I could bike up City Hill with no hands. I could shimmy up a clothesline pole and find myself teetering on the long metal balance beam like a trained gymnast.
At 12 years old, I was at the peak of my tomboy power. My muscles were long and lean, strong and agile. My confidence could carry me through any confrontation.
On weekends I’d grab some burnt toast, pull on my well-worn jeans, lock down my frizz of red hair with a rubber band and fly out of the door.
In the summer I’d wear nothing but shorts, a t-shirt and bare feet. No need to bother with lipstick or bras, blow my hair out or bury my head in the sand if I didn’t own the latest style.
No tampons or terrible temper over whether he likes me or likes me not. Boys were my best friends, and we hung out at the back fence chewing Bazooka and sharing the current issues of comic books.
We hated the jail cell of school and plotted how to ditch the nuns and run wild.
Our fugitive days were spent rolling down hills, catching butterflies, smoking milkweed and snacking on a sweet combination of worm-ridden apples and Sparky’s dry dog food.
Liberty, thy name is truancy.
But then my slender frame began to change. My body showed all the signs. Most girls loved it. They felt grown up wearing their first training bra or announcing that old Aunt Flow had come to call.
But not me. Although I was still lean and mean, the small chest curves couldn’t be denied. Boys looked at me in a different way.
I hated my period. The cramps and the crazy moods made me incapable of keeping it together long enough to run free and easy down the alley or take a marathon bike ride.
I had to comb my hair now. I had to consider lipstick and strapping on that stupid boob binder because that’s what nice girls did.
Screw it! I wanted my old body back. I wanted to race through the yard with dirt on my face, and climb so high that womanhood would never catch me.
It wasn’t so much the development as it was the intense feeling of loss. I somehow, through societal expectations, misplaced that tough tomboy.
What happened to the girl with all the courage of her convictions? What happened to the kid who could outrun anybody?
There were still times when I climbed that old maple or ran through a field. When I lay down in the tall grass and tried to remember the absolute strength and self-assurance of being 12, of knowing who I was without giving it a second thought.
I wanted to hold on to that feeling of beautiful connection — between me and my skinned-knee, skirt-free, bare-footed body.
I watched the sky. A small voice whispered through the cloud puffs and wild clover:
“Don’t let it go, girl. Don’t you dare let them tell you who to be. You keep rolling and running and climbing — all the way till dusk.”
Wendy Schmidt is a native of Wisconsin. She has been writing short stories and poetry for the last ten years. The Four C’s; cat, chocolate, coffee and computer are her chosen writing aids. Her pieces have been published in Brawler, Three Line Poetry, Verse Wisconsin, Twisted Dreams, Barbie Anthology, No Rest for the Wicked, Chicago Literati, Lake City Lights and, a winning poem in Reedsburg Farm/Art Festival.