If I told you how many times I listened to my record of ‘Puff The Magic Dragon’ in my childhood, you would think I was joking, but I’m not. Even as a little girl, I found that song so sorrowful, how Jackie Paper grows out of his love of Puff and turns away from childish things as he grows from a boy into a man. I loved the song and still do, despite how sad it made me. I’m thinking about Puff this morning, as I think about my granddaughter, who in the early morning hours of today turned 12, and how just like that, it feels like it’s over…other people and other joys occupy her world, like Jackie Paper, she is growing out of what was, into what will be…
Maybe “over” is too harsh, but things have changed and shifted, as I knew and expected they would, but I’m left with a strange ache that I did not anticipate. It came so suddenly, at least it feels sudden, or maybe I was not noticing the shift. She hardly calls me anymore, and her texts are less frequent with every passing day, and she seldom wanders over here just to talk like she once did, and the last few months of her school year, when I got her off the bus, she sometimes had no more than a sentence or two to say to me. As she grows, her time is spent more and more with less and less of me. I understand, and I realize it’s the way of things, it’s simply natural progression, and I’m happy she is growing out of the adolescent and child stages, and coming into the young lady and woman she will be one day, but still…
A dragon lives forever but not so little boys
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys
One grey night it happened, Jackie Paper came no more
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar
The child who I used to speak to or see every day, now goes for days, even more than a week with nothing more intimate or personal than a wave if we pass in the driveway. I was going to buy a new cordless phone for the house a few weeks ago, until I realized that the old answering machine messages asking, “Hi Nana are you there?” still stored an eight year-long history of her voice, as it grew from the four-year-old next door, into the girl with her own iPhone, who texted instead, would be lost. AND I admit that once in a while if I am feeling low in some way, I press Play> on that answering machine, just to hear her little voice. I fully accept the loss of what once was, I guess I just didn’t expect it to feel like it has come so quickly…suddenly it is her birthday and this is the last year before the numbers end in the word ‘teen.’
You won’t believe me until it happens to you, but the love you feel for the child of your child is profoundly different from what you ever felt as a parent. It is better and richer and more fulfilling than any love you have ever known before. That is a universal truth. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating, but it might just be my truth. And it could very well be that it feels different for me because of how close I am to the girls in my life; having bonded with them like I did for those first weeks and months of their lives, and in real proximity as we have been next door neighbors for eight years now. It is one of the most deeply felt bonds I’ve had the good fortune to know. I am grateful for this girl in my life, even though the girl has begun to slip and drift away, as a young woman slowly emerges.
She is still one of my favorite humans, no matter how many times she mutters under her breath or rolls her eyes at the adults in her life. I hope that she will always know she can turn to me, and my arms and mind will be open towards her, no matter how far she might turn away from me and leave childhood behind. I will be forever thankful to her, for unlocking my spirit and breaking open my heart to accept a love like that on the day she took her first breath. She might be moving on to other people and other joys but I won’t stay sorrowful, I won’t go back inside my woeful cave like Puff the magic dragon, I will celebrate her growing, and wish for her as she matures, to find and connect with people who are joyful and creative and interesting and talented, just like she is, and I will hope her friendships are fulfilling and fun, and I hope she finds people to share her time with who make her feel positive, and who keep her honest, and I will be happy, and lucky, that I had all those years of being one of her favorite humans too.