Smile Because You Want to Smile (For London on her 15th birthday)

Smile Because You Want to Smile (For London on her 15th birthday)

I can write about it now, London.

you had been alive for five weeks
when the old bags at your christening
combed their fingers through your mane
and exclaimed, “what a head of hair!
it’s a shame it will fall out.”

“Will it?” I asked.

“oh yes,” they laughed.

and I thought about it,
how every dark lock and red highlight
was doomed the moment you left my womb
and took your first breath.

it made me sad, but you were indifferent.
you gurgled and rolled over in my arms,
and you went on to defy them.

for 15 years, that head of yours has never felt
the bald blunt of wind.

it was your first rebellion.
it would become a pattern.

and just like your crowning glory and the many
afternoons I’ve chased you through the house
with a brush and elastic band, feeling like
an ax murderer in a horror film—
and you running like your life would end
if one bristle touched your tangled strands—

your defiance has been my curse on some days,
and a source of pride on others.

years after your hair refused to fall out,
when we were sitting in the doctor’s office
—you already bored with the assessment,
eyelashes fluttering, subdued,
looking out the window of possibilities
that I knew existed but you were still learning—
I realized I’m watching a girl unfolding
into a woman at her own pace, without a trace
of self-conscious deliberation that debilitates other girls
so easily (those little queens who sit beside you in class
and who smile when tasked and do what their mothers ask
without bargaining.)

I can write about it now, London.

even in our worst, most cliched mother/daughter moments—
I would never want to strip away at the sharp edges of you,
I would never want to disarm your warrior.

-Erin Passons
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