They are the best of times. They are the worst of times. They are the age of wisdom. They are the age of foolishness. They are the epoch of belief. They are the epoch of incredulity. They are the season of light. They are the season of darkness. They are the spring of hope. They are the winter of despair. They are when you’ll have everything before you. They are when you’ll have nothing before you. They are when you’ll fall in love and your heart will sing. They are when you’ll fall out of love and your heart will cry. They are when your mother is wise and helpful. They are when your mother is stupid and nagging. They are when your life is good and full of joy. They are when your life sucks and feels not worth living. They are great hair days and bikinis. They are pimples and nothing to wear. They are full of promise. They are full of temptations. They are what you’ll look back at fondly. And they are what you’ll never, ever want to re-live.
The teenage years are an amazing and wondrous roller coaster of new emotions and new experiences combined with fears, doubts and anxieties. The teenage years are the necessary bridge between sheltered childhood and privileged and responsible adulthood.
It’s a bridge that will feel exciting to cross because there is so much to do and see and discover. And yet, at the same time, it’s a bridge that will feel scary to cross because everything familiar is behind you, and the bridge may feel rickety and unstable with every step you take.
But if you ever do feel lost or scared of taking one more step, just hold on tight to the railing and holler for help. All of us here will come running to help you cross your bridge. And when you’ve made it through your teenage years, you will be pleased to discover that you’ve become the Tara I can already see at the end of your bridge: a beautiful, intelligent, generous, thoughtful and very, very special young woman.
I love you, Tara. Happy 13th birthday!
(Given to Tara Behme by her her mother, Jeneane Behme, at Tara’s 13th birthday party at Flushing City Riverview Park, June 17, 1996)