On Growing Up…

Laughter, Tears, and Our Teen Years, by McKennaugh

Next week, I’m turning 16. For some reason, 16 seems… well, old. Maybe just because I can drive, but it still seems different than my other birthdays. Strangely enough, it’s like it was just yesterday that I was playing “imaginary friends” with my brother and building my treehouse. And, yet, the years have passed in the blink of an eye. It’s like only a few moments ago that I was choking down a “pumpkin pie” made by my brother, Brennan… a pumpkin pie that was made out of goo from the pumpkin we had received from our grandfather. He mixed it with flour and put it in the oven. I’m pretty sure that he didn’t even add a lick of sugar. My mother, being the good mom that she is, told my little brother that it was soooooo good—while I nearly got sick downing one tiny square of the stuff. But, now, Brennan can crank out a pie that’s so yummy, I believe he could win a baking competition.

I’ve become older, too. I no longer find a scrap of rotting cloth under the porch and excitedly show my mother the “wonderful” thing I found. I no longer save my cookies as long as I can to make my siblings jealous. (Now they save their treats the longest to make me jealous). I no longer play with my towel after my shower and say that I’m a bat and it’s my wings.

I remember the year that Nevin (who is now nine) finally got big enough to join his brother in everything. Brennan and Nevin ran off to play every day and left me behind. Whenever I asked Brennan to do something with me, he’d say, “I promised Nevin I’d play with him right now.” I had never felt so alone. It was like losing my best friend. After that, though, we became more of a trio and Nevin was included.

My brothers and I used to do everything together. There was almost never a minute that we were apart. From picking wild strawberries on early summer mornings to “camping” in the van in the driveway on summer nights, we never left each other’s sides. I think some kids decide not to do things because someone tells them it’s not “cool,” or they finally realize it’s not “cool” themselves and so they put away Barbies and no longer make mud pies. But for me, it wasn’t like that. Because I am homeschooled, there was no one to tell me to stop creating imaginary lands and running barefoot. (Well, my mom always yelled about the barefoot part!) I don’t know, but long past when other kids would have put their childhood away little by little, I held onto mine and I was proud to be a tomboy with my brothers or play dress up with my mom. It seemed like it was one summer when it all escaped me. It wasn’t a choice, more like I had to give it all up. It started with not being able to play imaginary friends with Brennan anymore. I couldn’t think of a story to pretend. “Just pick something!” Brennan said, but I wasn’t able to. I didn’t pretend with them all summer, although I usually did every day.

Then, slowly, other things changed. I couldn’t stand to wear matching clothes with my brothers. We used to all wear identical tees, but I suddenly was painfully aware of this.

I didn’t play in the dirt anymore and I didn’t run in the rain.

Then we stopped being the trio. I guess it was me. I obtained different interests, I stopped wanting to play chase and catch lightning bugs in the dark. My childhood was slowly bidding me goodbye, almost before I had time to notice.

It was just the other day, that I was walking up the driveway with all my little brothers and, suddenly, I wanted more than anything to be able to play “imaginary friends” again, to be able to be little again, to be able to laugh and run through the brush in our woods playing hide-and-go-seek.

But …I couldn’t.

It wasn’t like it was by choice, just something had snapped inside of me, something called growing up. It’s not that getting older is a bad thing, it’s just that one day you wake up and find things will never be the same…even if you want them to be.

So, next week, I’ll be 16. I used to say on the night before my birthday that I was taking my current number and saving it for later use. So, for example, when I turned ten, I said I was using my 1 again. A few years back, I stopped talking about “saving my numbers”, but I think it’s just about time for me to take out my six and place it with the 1 I’ve been using.

McKennaugh Kelley (mckennaugh@inbox.com) is fifteen years old. She lives in Troy, Pennsylvania with a handful of crazy, creative, but mostly wonderful little brothers.

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