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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