The Photo Gallery | Youth

Sweet 16. The year 1990. Perms were in, so were floral dresses. I was all dressed up for my school ‘Prom’, after completing my G.C.S.E.’s and readying myself for ‘Sixth Form College’. I’d spent the past few years suffering acne and tram-line braces. I was only just beginning to be interested in boys – up until 16 I couldn’t understand what all the other girls were going on about. I was a late developer and kind of envied the other girls for having started their periods and wearing bras. They all told me I was lucky – and now I know I was.

Sweet 16

At sixteen I’d never even ‘french kissed’ a boy, had only just started my periods and barely needed a bra! A couple of years later, after the experience of ‘Sixth Form College’ I was a little bolder, braver and sassy… but University was a major ‘life experience’!!

I wrote this poem last year – but thought it tied in perfectly with this week’s ‘The Photo Gallery’, and the theme of ‘Youth’:

It’s a strange thing to be aware at ten of wanting to slow down time,
when most of my peers couldn’t wait for it to race by.

I still wanted to play Indians in the copse near my house,
take off on adventures, climb trees, build dens & jump ditches.

At fourteen I had to kiss a boy in a play,
I sure had to act, as I wasn’t ready for that!

I’d listen to girls talk of toying with boys in the park,
I still wanted to play tag, run round and kick a ball.

At fifteen I felt like I should move with my peers,
though I didn’t share their excitement in quite the same way.

Getting older for me meant more freedom to roam, by
bus, train and airplane, adventures far and wide.

At sixteen I thought I really ought to kiss a boy,
I asked a good friend if he would oblige. Paul was his name.

I’d had enough of hiding in toilets when the slow songs came on –
too shy to dance, though there were offers, fearful of a kiss.

Afraid to unlock a part of me that was coming of age,
could I not stay locked in childhood forever?

I liked the innocence, playfulness, boys being my friends.
Intimacy of an adult kind wasn’t what I had in mind.

And then it happened. A shift. An awakening of sorts –
Still half free spirited, bare footed child, running on grass,
but suddenly aware of a stirring lust deep inside.
I was introduced to romance, courting and batting of eyes.

I started to emerge from my chrysalis, wings outstretched,
but with no flight path to guide my giddy, naive heart.

Still but a child with a body of a young woman.
Unaware of the affect my movements had, no way prepared.

At eighteen my path turned bumpy, inhibitions masked with drink.
The wild years followed, I was out of control.

Then he found me and waited, a wild cat that needed taming.
I found friendship could go on, alongside romance.

Till I was twenty one we played a merry dance of cat and mouse,
the games we kept playing, but our paths still criss-crossing.

Then opportunity took us the other side of the world,
and forged our hearts closer, in a new land, far from our past.

I was twenty three when he proposed. We made a good match.
At twenty five I was married and years started racing.

Now thirty eight and a mother of three, the oldest near nine,
Yet still inside I am the child, who just wants to play.

Growing up is a game, I didn’t – and still don’t – always want to play.
Lucky for me, my children give me an excuse.
Sometimes I have to be serious and responsible –
But I live for the days of rolling in grass.

The numbers get bigger, of grey hairs and wrinkles, but –
I shall keep playing, so long as my body will let me.
The new games we all learn, as the candles keep amassing –
can only hope to keep, the child in our hearts, flickering in our eyes.

© Sarah Lee, 2012



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