Age Fifteen: “Where the Boys Are . . .”

After the so-called senior recitalwhich should have marked an end point, should it not?—the piano saga continued.

I played in a piano competition in Memphis the fall I turned fifteen. I was the youngest competitor, which should have told me something. Also, I’d refused to practice as I should. I went blank in the performance, just lost it several measures in. I started over and played fairly well, but the damage was done. I was humiliated.

My teacher for nearly ten years didn’t feel she had anything else to offer me, so my mother dragged me once a week to a nearby small college where I fumed for an hour under the tutelage of a young piano professor who forced me to play Bartok. I hated every minute. I had better things to do now. Those lessons lasted an interminable year.

Oh, but that summer!

By this time, my parents invited my best friend to go along on our beach trips. We usually stayed at Panama City Beach, in motels with names like Trade Winds and Surf and Sand. One year, we could see the amusement park just down the beach. We could walk there. (Chaperoned, of course.)

Here we are, prepping for the beach. And the second photo shows you what we found: a lifeguard. Cute, isn’t he? And he was mine!

Friend Sarah and I check out the beach. I’m on the left.


He had a friend, too, for my friend, which worked out nicely. We mostly talked to these boys when they were off duty during the day, but one evening, my folks allowed us to invite the boys up to the motel (my parents had to meet them, of course), and then we were allowed to sit around the pool and walk on the beach. I don’t remember this boy’s name. I never saw him again. But it was heady stuff.

I had gone from little girl a year before to full-fledged teenager. Still no dates. Still no kisses. But I was on my way!

That friend, by the way, is still around. She and I don’t talk or write often, but when we do, it’s as though we pick up where we left off. Occasionally, she’ll send me a photo from when we were girls together. I do the same. Friendships like that, and memories of beaches and lifeguards, don’t fade with time.

Is there a particular place you associate with the time when you went from child to teen? A particular friend or experience? Tell me about it!

This is the fifteenth post in the October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge. Thanks, Jane Ann McLachlan, for the challenge.

Ah, Thirteen!

Finally, a teenager. What was different? Very little.

I still looked immature. No makeup, no pierced ears. None of that.

One vivid, intimate detail stands out. The summer I was thirteen, my mother finally bought me a bra, a strapless one to wear under sundresses. I didn’t even need it, really, but I was so distressed over nothing happening on that front that she gave in. The worst part was that she made me model it for my dad. I think she saw it as their celebrating a rite of passage with me. I was mortified, and I think he was, too. I believe it was the beginning of a distance between my dad and me.


I love this photograph. Look at what happens to our shadows.

It’s interesting to think about what happens in the dynamic between father and daughter. My dad and I had always been close, but I felt him pulling away. Certainly no more sitting on daddy’s lap at this late stage. There were hugs, good ones, and kisses on the cheek. But he seemed keenly aware of the fact that I was becoming a young woman.

What he and my mother didn’t know was that my best friend and I spent many hours on Saturday mornings watching out her window for the older boy who lived next door. My friend’s upstairs bedroom overlooked his yard. I spent every other Friday night at her house, and we’d be up early, hiding behind her curtains, watching and waiting for him to come out. He was golden: tan, blond hair, blue eyes, a dazzling smile. A high school boy! Usually, he cut the yard on Saturday mornings. We lived for warm days when he would mow without his shirt. We’d be in spasms of giggles, daring to peek out from behind the curtain, living on the edge of being discovered, in many more ways than one.

Did you mature early or late? How did that timing affect relationships with your parents? Your friends?

“Ah, Thirteen!” continues the memoir series prompted by Jane Ann McLachlan’s October Memoir and Backstory Blog Challenge. To access previous posts, see Recent Posts in the right column.