1070: Thirteen by Anna V.Q. Ross

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1070: Thirteen by Anna V.Q. Ross


I’m Major Jackson and this is The Slowdown.

In her first year of high school, Anastasia joined the cheerleading team at Knoxville Catholic. I flew in for the weekend to cheer for her, cheering on her school’s football team. When I walked into the stadium, I looked for her on the sidelines. Didi pointed her out among the girls flipping and shaking pom poms, and . . . and, well let’s just say I wasn’t prepared to see my daughter looking all, all grown up. She waved from the field, and we vigorously waved back from the stands, but in my head, I was asking, “What happened to my little girl?”

Her hair was pulled back in a ponytail. Makeup (tons of makeup, to me) accented her bright smile and soft eyes. I am typically good with life transitions. Change is an expected, even exciting aspect of life, but listening to teenage boys from the rival high school in seats nearby, whistle at my daughter and other girls, made me long for days when she would only be seen in sweatpants.

A slew of memories returned to me: her screaming Look at me daddy! Look! then jump into the deep end, scramble to the side of a swimming pool, then get out and do it all over again. Her sitting in the children’s section of a bookstore, reading out loud to a small, stuffed bear, or at a friend’s stable, riding atop a Welsh Pony, the too-big equestrian hat falling over her eyes after a short trot.

I knew the day loomed when she would inevitably express her identity as a young woman. I have always wanted my children to feel confident and empowered; I wished to lead the charge in affirming their choices, to protect them from ridicule and shame. Now it was time for me to step up. She was not only attractive and audacious, but also intelligent and fragile. She deserved nothing less than my support for all of her.

Today’s poem celebrates the glow and growth of daughters, their energy and curiosity, their intuition and vulnerability.

by Anna V.Q. Ross

Here’s to the beautiful daughters
who eat all the cookies 
who won’t sleep and don’t sleep and then sleep
all Saturday until hunger engines them up
into the noon kitchen glowering.
Who snatch our good red boots,
colting down the hall, out the door
in our new black sweater. Who grow.
Who grow.
Who smile silent out the backseat window
all throughout the hello and how was and did you
and I did and and, and, and … monologue—
who are they looking at?
Who freckle and tangle,
Sturm und Drang,
blame and are right 
and still want a song at good night.
Who ask.
Who ask and the answer is no, is yes.
Who ask and the answers skein philosophical,
barbed, skinless, capillary.
Who ask and remind us.
Who know the inside of us.
Who don’t remember, who do.
Who get and give.
Who live.
Who forgive.

“Thirteen” by Anna V.Q. Ross from FLUTTER, KICK © 2022 Anna V.Q. Ross. Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Red Hen Press.