Nine girls giggling, squealing, splashing. Nine girls laughing hard and diving long into the deep end. Nine girls bearing brightly wrapped gifts and faces smeared with ice cream smiles. They ate all the red and pink Starbursts, and took turns wearing the blue mermaid tail that shimmers when it flips through the water.
My husband and I sat and watched them, refilling food bowls, making sure no one drowned. We didn’t see a trace of drama. No mean girls allowed. It restored my hope in humanity, if only for an afternoon. From what I remember of ten years old, it felt just like this: It felt like freedom and it tasted like chlorine and it smelled like sunshine.
I have a friend who practices turning one somersault a week. She said she wants to remember what it feels like for her body to move the way it did when she was a child. After she divulged this secret, I went home and looked for the largest space of cushioned carpet. I knelt on the floor and curved my head under. I tried to remember what my creaky old body felt like at ten years old, and I flipped this curved spine over with what I imagined was a great flourish. In reality, I feel certain I looked like someone having a spasm.
It hurt. It physically hurt. I tried one more time and told the silent walls who witnessed my attempt that my friend is crazy. She is also ten years older than me, so she’s obviously part acrobat or magician.
Speaking of magicians, my husband, like all boys trapped in a grown man’s body, has developed a magic obsession. I find him tucked under the covers at night, bathed in the dim glow of his phone, watching you tube videos of card tricks and slight of hand. I shake my head and then a twitch of a memory will ripple across the surface. I grasp at it, trying to capture what it feels like to be a kid again. To turn somersaults, to feel certain a glittering blue tail could transform a girl into a real mermaid, to believe mystery lurks behind tree trunks and deep waters. To be a kid is to trust in ordinary magic.
Those moments were few and far between for me as a child, but they’re etched beneath my skin, like the lines of a poem running through my blue-green veins. I miss the mystery and the magic. I miss the potential for anything to happen. More than anything, I miss the freedom.
This summer, I want to re-learn the lessons of my youth, to allow the poetry of sunshine and ice cream and mermaids and mysteries to flow free beneath the surface of my skin. I might remember how to make my body turn somersaults. I might remember what it feels like to believe that in every ordinary thing there is magic hiding within.