life on the funny farm

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Free Bird


Rosie went to a dance last week.

The middle school Valentine's Dance.

It was a "semi-formal" affair, in which the girls wore pretty little dresses and little-bitty heels and the boys wore poorly arranged ties.

She had gone to a friend's house to get ready and get a ride there, and I was to pick them up when it was all over and deliver them safely home.

We waited, we parents, in the warmth of our cars. Reading books, checking messages, biding time. Soon enough, the doors opened, the light sliced through the darkness of the night, and a mass of young people spilled down the steps, a waterfall of children.

My eyes scanned the crowd, looking for my daughter.

And there she was.

When I saw her a few hours ago she was dressed in grey sweat pants, moccassins, and a soccer t-shirt. But in her giggling clot of girls, she floated forward in the stream, wearing the dress we had picked out. Silver with a hint of lavender, and an embroidery of glistening black flowers, it was lovely. She was lovely. And growing up so quickly. To say that the years between 3 and 13 passed in the blink of an eye is a weary cliche, but true nonetheless.

As they walked out into the breezy night air, their balloons tugged at the ribbons around their wrists like frolicking puppies. Rosie and friends were talking, laughing, teetering on their heels even while trying to pull off the look like they were born wearing them.

Their chatter and laughter didn't skip a beat as they loaded into the car. Maggie was wearing a curlie-que ribbon in her hair, torn from the basket Rosie won in a raffle. Another friend, Hannah, was helping Rosie dissect the basket to inventory the take. She had won a plastic heart that radiated a strobe light, nearly inducing a seizure in me while I was driving. The off switch appeared to be defective. She won a red teddy bear outfitted as a devil. And candy. Lots and lots of candy. Because large quantities of sugar was just what these girls needed about now.

When the conversation paused a heartbeat, I began my littany of questions.....

Me: So how was it?
Girls: (Looking at each other)Ummm...alright? I guess?
Me: Well were a lot of your friends there?
Girls: No. It was like, all 8th graders.
Me: Was the dance in the cafeteria? Was it decorated?
Girls: Yeah. They had like, 2 banners that said Happy Valentine's Day and some balloons.
Me: Why Valentine's Day? Isn't it, like, 11 days past or something?
When I have a conversation with two or more teen girls, the word "like" somehow finds its way into my vocabulary without my awareness of it.
Girls: Yeah but it was like, rescheduled.
Me: Did you guys dance with anyone?
M: We danced with each other.
R: And I slow-danced with my balloon.
H: Only like one couple dance-danced.
Dance-danced? Oh, I get it. Like food-food.
R: And Mrs. H did the tango with herself and when she saw me she told me to tell Patrick to get his hair cut.
Small school.
Me: Who did the music, Mr H?
Girls: Yeah, like always.
Me: What kind of stuff did he play?
Girls: The usual. Pop stuff.
Me: Did he play Free Bird at the end?
Girls: What's Free Bird?
At which point I nearly drove my car into a ditch.
Me: WHAT'S FREE BIRD?! It's only the Lynyrd Skynyrd classic played at the end of every middle school dance going back till the dawn of time!
Girls: Looking at each other.....
Me: You know, all the kids start yelling FREEEEEEEEBIIIIIIIIIIRD and the DJ acts like he's never gonna play it but you just keep yelling FFFFFRRRRREEEEEBBBBIIIIIRRRRDDDD until he finally, magically plays it and then all the girls group in clusters to slow-dance with each other and a few real couples make-out while shuffling their feet.
Free Bird.

Crickets.

They have no clue.

Then, to make matters worse, I start trying to sing it to them so they'll GET IT, but I glance in the mirror and realize Rosie is
going to die
and so I stop.

And I continue the drive home shocked into a state of stuporous silence.

But then we get home, and I see the girls waltz into the house, looking all grown up but acting like the young teens they are and I am all nostalgic.

Because I am still thinking of Free Bird, I sit down at my computer and look up the lyrics, because my memory has preserved them in a warped kind of way and I want to remember.

No. I want to re-collect.

And there it is......

If I leave here tomorrow
Would you still remember me?
For I must be travelling on, now,
'Cause there's too many places I've got to see.
But, if I stayed here with you, girl,
Things just couldn't be the same.
'Cause I'm as free as a bird now,
And this bird you can not change.
Lord knows, I can't change.

Bye, bye, its been a sweet love.
Though this feeling I can't change.
But please don't take it badly,
'Cause Lord knows I'm to blame.
But, if I stayed here with you girl,
Things just couldn't be the same.
Cause I'm as free as a bird now,
And this bird you'll never change.
And this bird you can not change.
Lord knows, I can't change.
Lord help me, I can't change.


Only now I'm not seeing it as the teen once did. I'm not seeing it as a song I would belt out while knotting together with my best friends, arms all entangled.

I'm seeing it through a mother's eyes. And in the lyrics, my daughter, my beautiful, growing-up-too-fast daughter, is the bird about to fly.

And I know the next time I blink, she will be grown.

She will be flying.

And I cry ....

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