What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you don’t feel eleven at all. You feel like you’re still ten. And you are—underneath the year that makes you eleven.

Like some days you might say something stupid, and that’s the part of you that’s still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama’s lap because you’re scared, and that’s the part of you that’s five. And maybe one day when you’re all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you’re three, and that’s okay.

That’s what I tell Mama when she’s sad and needs to cry. Maybe she’s feeling three.Because the way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree trunk or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That’s how being eleven years old is.

An excerpt of “Eleven,” a short story by Sandra Cisneros
via never saw blue like that before

Twenty-five years are a lot of birthdays. I can’t quite remember when I first read this short story, but it has stuck with me. Many birthdays means many different ages to feel. Cisneros describe something few have truely captured. Some days I really feel like a petulant 14-year-old. Other times I am every day of 24(.9). I can count on one hand the number of times I have felt 3 in the past year. They are the worst moments. It’s always the same. Confusion mixed with shame for not understanding, not being good enough. It rushes my blood stream in an instant. I stand frozen, suppressing the urge to curl up in the fetal position in a dark corner. The shame of inexperience is an devastatingly infantile feeling. No tears like 11-year-old Rachel in Cisneros’ story. An overwhelming need to wrap my arms around my knees and tuck away into myself.

Eleven days left. I don’t want to be 25. The day is meaningless. Afterall, on the last day of 24 I will actually be 24.997260274. One day means nothing in a whole year. Yet, 25. I spend too much time feeling 12 to turn 25. I suppose there is comfort knowing that I will “open [my] eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today”. As the days count down, I feel 5. Where is my mom’s lap when I need it?


3 thoughts on “Eleven

  1. Jeannette

    I love this story. And I understand you so much. I’m 25,635613. (Yes, I’ve counted.) And I felt a little … unprepared (?!) when I turned 25,0

  2. Cathy

    Loved the story excerpt – can truly identify with still feeling 6 or 16 or even 21. Even at 52 we still peel back the onion layers longing to be 5!


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