I still remember trying on my mother’s heels. Twirling, transfixed at the reflection in the bathroom mirror.
Woman. That was a word that lay heavy and unsure on my tongue.
I was breast buds and bare feet, overalls that didn’t quite fit and a different color polish on every fingernail. Falling, was off the swing set. And fear was closing my eyes without the closet light.
Men were my father and the neighbor who carried me home when I split my shin on concrete. Boys were the ones who ran shirtless and raced me on their bikes and peed in my sandbox.
I didn’t yet know what those heels could do, what that mirror could say. What a girl gains, gives, grows.
Why that word, woman, was so terrifying.
I danced in those heels. Danced and twirled and twisted and laughed at my flush-faced reflection. Woman. Woman.
Later my mother would wipe the color from my lips. My father would kiss me to sleep with his lullabies. Brown eyed girl, brown eyed girl. Not a woman. Not yet.
Sometimes when I stand in the mirror, I trace the muscles of my calves. The transformation, the curves of my skin. I wonder about that girl, twirling in a dress and shoes too big.
I used to be afraid of that face, that body, those legs. Now I know better.
Those heels are power. Mine to take, to give.
Woman. Synonymous with strong.
But I still twirl in the mirror. Brown eyed girl, brown eyed girl.