All Long Limbs & Lightheartedness by Emeline Ring
On the road leading back to my grandma’s house, the July sun beating down on our brows, my cousin and I make our way back from the library, this budding girl with the long, bony limbs and me with a year of college under my belt. Since she’s only visiting for one week, I’m trying to soak in every change that I can before she leaves. I find that when I’m talking about her to other people, I can’t stop gushing, and then I realize that I sound like such a generic adult because I have to mention how tall she’s gotten in the past year or how she is a mirror of her oldest sister, with deep brown eyes and that bright smile, for the time being adorned with braces. When did she even turn thirteen in the first place and start taking an interest in makeup and boys and her future career, of which there are endless possibilities? I love it. I can’t bear it. I can’t bear the fact that I don’t get to be with her when she’ll experience all of the pivotal moments in a girl’s life: her first crush, her first boyfriend, high school graduation, her first heartbreak, all of the nights spent laughing and crying and bonding together and hopefully imparting whatever wisdom I have, if I have any in the first place. I know that her sisters and her parents sometimes wish she would remain the little girl she once was, and are hesitant to let her experience some independence, but she’s more self-sufficient than they’re willing to admit. And yet, it still seems like yesterday that I could easily give her piggy back rides, or she was delighted to play dress up, or she would cry when she was excluded from activities with the older girls and her face would scrunch up and she would clench her bony fists. I hope they know how great she is. She’s the greatest cousin in the history of the world. She’ll belt out her favorite Selena Gomez songs while using a hairbrush as a microphone. She’ll spend hours in the kitchen concocting the perfect smoothie for you, and I swear she could be a professional chef if she wanted. She’d be the best, most innovative chef there was. She’ll misquote lines from Avatar: The Last Airbenderbut will say them through uncontainable laughter and snorts that you can’t help but laugh with her. She’s not so much a teenager yet that she can’t enjoy the silly and lighthearted things in life. She was looking forward to this trip so badly, and I hate to think that her stay will be over before we know it. Then we’ll have to say goodbye, and I already know there will be tears from both of us, because whenever her face gets red and her bottom lip starts wobbling you can’t help but feel like your heart is being ripped out, and you would do anything to hear her laugh again. She really has the brightest smile of anyone God ever made in a million years. But I know that the instant I see that first tear slip from her eye, I’ll be a puddle of tears myself. I can’t bear this. If you ever meet her, you’ll know her. She’s tall and tan and lanky with eyes that crinkle when she smiles and a sort of infectious energy. You’ll know. Trust me. Once you meet her, you won’t want to say goodbye. Trust me when I say that. Trust me.
When I was told to imitate an author’s writing for class, I was immediately drawn to Brian Doyle’s piece, “All Legs & Curiosity.” Doyle writes about a mother dropping her daughter off for college, and all of the mixed emotions that come with that. She is undoubtedly proud of her daughter, but there is pain in her parting. Overall, there is an obvious love in her words, and this is the tone I wanted to use when writing about my experiences with my younger cousin, who recently turned thirteen. After making the move from Washington State to Minnesota for college, the occasions when I get to see her are few and far between. And when I do, I’m reminded of the passing of time through a new interest she’s acquired, a crush she’s developed, or a skill she’s learning in school. I need to cherish every moment, since the years are going pass in the blink of an eye. On the flip side, I can’t wait to witness her growing into an energetic, beautiful young woman. I’m an only child, so she’s the closest thing I have to a little sister. This close bond fits Doyle’s style and material. His run-on sentences show how when you love someone, you can’t stop talking about them. You want to include every detail and moment. The form couldn’t have fit the function any better than it did.
One of the reasons I loved writing this piece was the freedom that came with Doyle’s run-on sentence structure. I wasn’t worried about crafting perfect phrases (at least, at first)—all I had to do was get every thought and detail on the page, which wasn’t difficult. One of my goals was capturing my cousin at a certain point in time, in this case, summer 2018. I wrote down details and moments that I might not have remembered otherwise, yet capture the essence of her and our friendship: the songs she loved couldn’t get enough of, what TV show captured her attention, or her mannerisms as a thirteen year-old. I wanted to hold on to these sweet memories of her formative years while also looking to the future. Simply put, it’s bittersweet. The transition between innocent girl and thoughtful, inspired, innovative young woman should be cherished. Doyle writes in his piece, “I love it. I can’t bear it.” I couldn’t agree more.