When we were

When we were little, still so little,

Before velvet Christmas dresses

Before tap shoes

When our mothers were our galaxy, our milky way, our entire pattycake universe;

And Little Golden Books were our imaginations’ kitten-fuzzy playgrounds;

When we pulled up the fronts of our dresses

Just as the photos were being taken, not out of rebellion but out of shyness;

When we followed older brothers up the trunks of trees

And into the deep end

And onto the high-diving board

And got lost trying to keep up with them along the campground trails

And our dads thought we’d been kidnapped;

When our spinster aunts brought us Smarties

And Popeye cigarettes and the coolest knee socks

And knew not to bring barrettes or Barbie dolls;

When the boys in our Grade 4 class pulled our hair

And chased us at recess and we knew not to tell the teachers

Because we would just get it worse the next day;

When our fathers came home from work and asked

What happened at school and we said, ‘Nothing,’

Day after day after day;

When our little brothers got angry and threw handfuls of sand in our eyes

And our 8-year-old boyfriends comforted us with dandelion tops and somersaults;

When we were picked on by the gang of Most Popular Girls in school

And we tried to not cry and to just get through the day because we knew

Tomorrow it would be someone else’s turn to be bullied;

When we made it to high school and thought things would be so much better

And that turned out to be So. Not. True.

When we stopped watching after-school specials

And started reading poetry and graffiti;

When we quit racing our 10-speed bikes and started riding in cars with boys;

When our mothers gave us the talks about not being easy,

And birth control, and don’t trust any of those boys;

When decades flew by and we were able to read every stolen kiss,

Every betrayal and every heartache on our faces;

Every sunny day at the beach on our freckled, speckled skin;

When we woke up 40 years older and 40 pounds heavier

And forever 40 winks shy of a good sleep;

When we began asking for kindness instead of kisses,

And time to ourselves, and silence, and calm

And an end to all the sad, crazy noises in the world;

When we looked up one day at that same sky we’ve been staring at

Since we were little, so, so little; and we were reminded that it’s the same sky

Once gazed upon by Emily Dickenson, out with lanterns looking for herself,

And Walt Whitman, singing his body electric, and Allen Ginsberg, howling

And Galileo and Van Gogh and Nureyev and Aretha;

And we realized that we’re amazing, tiny specks

In an unfathomably vast cosmos

That chugs and churns and sparkles

Regardless of what we’ve done with our hair