By Esther C. Baird/Tri-Town Transcript columnist
First Published in the Tri-Town Transcript April 23, 2014
BOXFORD There are many milestones that we celebrate in our culture. At age 16 you can drive, 18 you can vote, 21 you can drink, 25 you can rent a car (an underrated milestone in my road-tripping opinion), at 40 you can write a column about getting old, and of course at 50 you can join AARP.
But at Casa Baird there is an earlier one – age ten. The golden number when dreams come true, hopes are fulfilled, and life finally becomes fair, the age when our two daughters are allowed to get their ears pierced.
I had mine pierced at age ten, instead of the original fatherly mandated age of 16, because as a tomboy, people kept making comments about my parent’s ‘fine son.’ Ten worked nicely for me, so we kept the rule for our girls despite my daughter pointing out on every single occasion of all time that she was the laaaaast girl in her class to get earrings. Best I could tell, no girl had died from waiting a decade to get holes shot into her ears. Ten was our age, and we were sticking to it.
With one exception.
Our daughter’s birthday is in July. And even I, the Mommy Earring Scrooge, knew that getting your ears pierced in the summer was not nearly as fabulous as showing up to school for the hallway walk. You know, where you could flick your hair back ever so casually so all your friends could see you sparkle.
So we surprised her.
We ordered “10th Birthday” balloons and I had a T-shirt printed that said, “preTENd you are TEN,” and we sprung it on her with cheers and clapping. She didn’t get it. “So, I’m pretending I’m ten today?” I was giddy, “Yes!!! And what happens!!!???” She stared at me, “Umm, I’m double digits?” I jumped up and down clapping my hands, “Yes!!! And what does that mean!?” Our youngest daughter sighed the sigh of the eternally younger sister, “You get your ears pierced.” Our older daughter huffed, “Yeah . . . when I’m ten!” I was too excited for the conversational shenanigans. ”No!!” I bounced. “Right now! preTENd you are TEN now! We’re headed to the mall right this second!” She gasped and did something akin to a joyful swoon, and then we were off to the hallowed halls of Claire’s Boutique.
”Will it hurt?” she asked.
”Mmmmmm,” I smiled and quickly exclaimed, “Look at the starter sets!! So many options!”
And there were. Precious metals, monthly birth stones, sparkly faux diamonds, sparkly real diamonds, Hello Kitty faces, shiny daisy’s and on and on. How to choose when you only get one shot at a first pair of earrings? The fate of our daughter’s emotional stability and social fortitude hung in the balance. Or, you know, something like that.
In the end she chose some glittery, blue studs. Technically they were the December birthstone; technically we didn’t care. They were her favorite color, they stood out nicely against her honeyed hair, and she liked them.
We readied ourselves for the guns, while the attendant drew little spots with a marker where she intended to shoot.
“Those don’t seem centered on her earlobes.”
She explained, “I put them forward so they are balanced in a way that allows for a second piercing down the road.”
“Oh, yes, except,” I smiled sweetly, “I’m not paying for a second piercing ‘down the road,’ I’m paying for a single piercing, right now. So go ahead and center them, thanks!”
And we were good to go.
Of course the actual excitement and buildup and anxiety and decade of youthful angst was over in the zip-zap that it took to shoot both ears.
In ear years, she was ten. A blue, sparkly, all smiles, ten.
In parenting years we’d crossed our first major age-specific milestone . . . and it was a breeze. It can only get easier from here, right??