Last night, in the midst of the sugar induced squeals of tween girls at my younger daughter’s 12th birthday party, there was a unexpected silence when the noise from the kitchen just stopped.
I looked up to see what had happened and was met by the returning stares of ten adolescent faces, eyes wide with awe.
“What’s going on?” I asked, before realizing that the gaze was not fixed on me, but on something just past me.
I turned my head to see what had captured their amazement and brought their silence. My high school Freshman was standing in our entryway. “They’re staring at me,” she said, her voice light with amusement.
For a few awkward moments, no one said anything. I turned my attention from my older daughter, to the younger group, and back again. No one moved.
“Hi,” Claire finally said to them, breaking the silence. She acknowledged the ones she knew personally by name.
At last, one of the younger girls spoke. “You got highlights,” she said.
“Yes, I did,” Claire told her.
And then there was just more silence. Claire got some paper from a cabinet and went into the living room to make cards for a party she was going to later. When she had disappeared from sight, the younger girls slowly peeled themselves away from the kitchen doorway and retreated back to into the kitchen. Within moments, the raucous noise had returned, and all was as it had been before Claire had been spotted.
And as the conversation returned to the latest antics of a particular boy in their sixth grade class, the upcoming school musical, and spring break plans, I knew the younger girls would probably forget about Claire by the time the pizza we’d just ordered arrived.
But the memory of what had happened–the silence, the awe, the hesitant respect of a girl three years their elder–that would live on and on in Claire’s mind.