SweetZ turned five last May. Five’s a pretty big deal. Five is when you get to start school. Five is when you really, really realize that your baby sister is a baby and you are a big girl. Five is when you begin to learn the art of turning a one-syllable word into a two-syllable word to show disdain: Mo-om, or Du-uh.
Five is when you realize that you want to get your ears pierced.
SweetZ has taken to inspecting my ears on a daily basis. I don’t wear earrings every day, and on those days she looks at me with this look that reminds me so much of my mom, it’s uncanny. A look that says, I’m really disappointed right now, but I love you anyway. But on a day when I’m wearing earrings, she grins, fingers them a little, and asks,
“Mom, can I get earrings?”
I was five when I got my ears pierced. I don’t have many vivid memories before this particular one, but they are as follows:
*In pre-school I punched a boy in the nose to protect my best friend, Tiffany. I don’t remember what he did to deserve it, but I remember feeling disgusted when he started crying. I mean, come on. Man up, dude.
*My dad teaching me to tie my shoes. We were sitting on the steps (that were carpeted with this hideous red-and-orange-and-green-and-yellow shag carpet), and he was reciting some poem that was supposed to help me learn. I don’t remember the poem; I just remember the timber of his voice as he spoke it. Deep and musical and patient. My dad is not a patient man, and I think that is partly why this memory has stuck with me so.
Neither one of these memories holds a candle to the memory of getting my ears pierced.
We’ve already established that I was five. Five-year old Myndi was spunky. She was stubborn. She was a-freaking-dorable (I’ve seen pictures. My cuteness knew no bounds). And I was jealous with a capital J.
My sister, who is two years older than me, had just gotten her ears pierced. The sight of those pretty gold balls on her ears was literally driving me insane. I wanted earrings, too. OH! How I wanted earrings. And so began what I like to call the The Great Earring March of ’83. I. Was. Relentless. I remember following my mom around, talking about earrings, asking if I could have earrings, begging for earrings, talk-talk-talk, ask-ask-ask, beg-beg-beg. I don’t know how long this went on. It felt like a lifetime. Looking back, I’m so totally shocked that these tactics worked. My mom wasn’t the type to give in to this kind of behavior.
Here’s something you need to know: I thought the pretty little gold balls on my sister’s ears were just that: little gold balls. I’d never looked at the back of her ears to see the stem protruding through her lobe. I had no clue that earrings required a scary-ass thing called ‘piercing’ – the equivalent of sticking a needle into your flesh.
I’m sitting on a stool at our local jewelers, buzzing with excitement. They draw dots on my earlobes that my mom scrutinizes. She makes the woman re-draw twice. The alcohol swab they use to clean the ink off with was cold.
“Are you ready?” the nice jeweler lady asks. I nod. I was born ready. “Okay,” she says, and proceeds to hold a gun to my mother-trucking head.
All my excitement is gone and I’m suddenly terrified and I can’t breathe and there’s no way to find the air I need to say NO! and BLAM! the gun goes off and pain is tearing through my ear because this lady just shot me and I’m looking at my mom, who is smiling this placid kind of smile and she says something but I can’t hear it because my pulse is rushing in my ears (it sounds like waves) and I tumble off the stool and take off running through the jewelry store onto the sidewalk outside and I turn left and pump my little legs as hard as I can and I can’t believe I’m not bleeding because that lady just shot me with her funny-looking gun and suddenly a pair of arms grabs me and heaves me up and I’m finally able to make noise and I start screaming and howling as the pair of arms carries me back into the jewelry store and I start dry-heaving because I know they’re going to do it again…
Parenthood has softened my heart toward this memory. I’m a mom now, so I get it – sometimes we miss how our kids perceive things. My mom never thought to tell me how ears were pierced, because it never occurred to her that I didn’t understand. She’d thought logic or common sense would have told me there would be pain involved. She was thinking like the twenty-something she was, not the five-year old I was. A mistake I’ve made countless times as a parent.
Anyway, a few hours later I was home, tears and fears dried up as I bragged about my earrings (and the ice-cream cone I’d scored after the whole debacle was over). My mom may or may not have had a stiff drink after; I know I would have needed one.
SweetZ is going to get her ears pierced soon. I want to do it for her now, when it’s something she wants just because she thinks earrings are pretty and she wants to be like me – not later, when it will be about fitting in and peer pressure. But I’ve told her, in terms quite certain, that it will hurt, and that it might even be a little scary.
She looks up at me with her grey-green eyes and those lashes that could literally knock you out, and thinks for a bit. “That’s okay, Mom,” she says. “I’m brave and smart and tough. I can handle it.”
Oh, mercy. I hope I can.
p.s. There’s still time to vote for the ring the Hubster designed for my wedding ring do-over. Click here and vote for #23. Voting ends on August 2. Thanks! (For the whole story, read my post WEDDING RING DO-OVER.)