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Earring is a souvenir to remind me of 13

Hope, her friends, and we moms stood at the Piercing Pagoda counter, waiting for these new 13-year-olds to get their ears pierced. It was almost my turn to pay. I looked across the glass pagoda as the girls, grinning, pointed at earrings.

"I think I want those turquoise ones," Lauren said. Jeannette smiled encouragingly, her own ears long-decorated with pretty twinkles.

"Green," Hope said.

Millie turned the carousel of earrings around and around, considering.

I watched Katie, Millie's mom, pay the cashier. "Two," she said. I knew that she was getting her own holes -- grown in during the motherhood years -- repierced.

But what about me? I thought about it again. For a few weeks, I'd been saying that I might get a second extra hole in my right ear, a "Hope hole," my own little piece of self-mutilation to welcome the decade of teenage years about to descend upon our home. Now it was October, and the big day had come.

Thirteen is one of those big numbers. Like 10 and 16 and 21, it carries a weight that 8 and 11 and 17 do not. Thirteen is the age at which I was allowed to have my own ears pierced, and the age I have held out for with my own daughters. I remember begging my mother to get my ears pierced before that magic number, but no luck. I remember standing in line at the Oakdale Mall Piercing Pagoda in Johnson City. I remember the little gold balls and the little white bottle of ear care. I remember turning every window into a mirror, just to see my ears.

Now, 28 years later, I stood with three holes in my left and one in my right -- wavering. Why should I get another earring? Ialready had three holes in my left ear, one extra from when my sister got her second hole and one extra from when my friend Sallye got hers. For years I vowed not to accompany anyone who was getting her ears pierced. My willpower was too weak!

But now, here I stood in the middle of McKinley Mall, watching my baby-toddler-kindergart-ner-parrot-for-Halloween-school-age-girl-tu ned-teenager choose her own first pair of earrings.

Katie tucked her receipt back into her wallet and signed a permission form. The cashier looked at me from under her silver brow rings. It would cost $25 for me to have my left ear pierced in honor of this day. And I might look silly with so many ear holes. And it would hurt.

The girls continued to flutter over earrings as I quietly reached up to my right earlobe, thinking, it would be good to have a hole to remember this day. And it would be good to have $25.

Hope looked away from her friends and over to me. "Are you going to, Mom?" she asked.

"I'm not sure."

She smiled and nodded with both head and eyes. "Oh, do it!" And I could tell that she meant it, that she was welcoming me into her ritual. No, I would not be intruding. No, it wasn't nonsense to get a fifth hole in my 41-year-old head. Not at all. I was welcome.

I looked at the Piercing Pagoda girl, all studs and sparkles. "Yes," I said, "there will be two of us."

As I write this several months later, I sit at my old desk and watch chickadees hop in the snow. I twist my little earring, so grateful to be a mother and to have this tiny souvenir to remind me of 13, then and now.

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, who lives in Holland, blogs at www.poemfarm.amylv.com.