a year of stories - 5 of 52 / by Carey Pace

*This post is part of a collaborative project - a year of stories shared by a group of 15 photographers every Monday in 2016.  Please visit Laura Mood after you read this post to continue the circle.*

(click on any picture to see it larger)

(the day after she had them pierced)

Like any good Anxiety-Girl-First-Time-Mom who always does the very best for her child in any and all circumstances, I was NOT going to have her ears pierced at some local random place like Claire's or heaven forbid, Walmart.  My little Lady was turning one and I had read that you could have ears pierced at the pediatrician's office, for the utmost best outcome.  That's what the good mommies do, of course.  There's proper alignment and sterility to consider!  

My ears were pierced when I was just two years old.  [I have no memory of it -- however, I do recall sitting on the side guards of the ramp in the middle of the Asheville mall, simultaneously screaming-crying and mouthing an ice cream cone. Truly, I have this memory.]  They were just always done and I've never had to worry about any kind of hole-growing-up issues, so I wanted this same situation for my daughter. 

However, our pediatrician wouldn't do it.  My plans were dashed.  It seemed my choices were Claire's, Walmart, or a tattoo parlor.  So much for that Anxiety-Girl-First-Time-Best-Mom-Ever philosophy.  Life took over and we just didn't do it.  Fast forward a few years and she began to ask about it.  I explained how ears were pierced and she wanted nothing to do with it.  She has a zero pain tolerance.  We told her that whenever she was ready to have it done, we'd have it done. I wouldn't force her. It would be completely her decision.  

Just before Thanksgiving,  we were in Claire's in the Durham, NC mall looking at the beanie boos.  She had earned a beanie boo prize for conquering her fear of the Spartan Kids race and we were trying to find one she didn't already own.  She saw a little girl, younger than her, climb up into the piercing chair and get her ears pierced.  The little girl didn't cry.  My Lady shocked me when she said, "I want to get my ears pierced."  

I wasn't exactly planning on that happening that day, at all.  It came out of the blue.  I'm a planner. I'm a thinker.  I'm a consider-er.  I didn't have time to do any of those things.  I threw caution to the wind and said to myself, "BAM! Let's do this!"  She wanted to, and so we may as well go for it while she was ready. Before she changed her mind!  She did fantastic.  

She had to wear the piercing studs for eight weeks.  We had to clean them three times a day with the cleaning solution for those eight weeks.  Eight long weeks.  Because the child cannot tolerate any smidgen of discomfort.  

Just after she'd had them pierced, we visited my grandparents for Thanksgiving.  My grandmother was beside herself excited about this possibility.  The next morning she called me very early to check with me to make sure I was okay with her buying the Lady a pair of gold hoop earrings for Christmas.  They were already on their way to the jewelry store. I said yes, of course, but internally sighed.  

I knew that the Lady wasn't going to want to wear "grown-up" gold hoop earrings.  She likes all that tacky, junky looking stuff at Claire's.  She'd already picked out a pair of ice cream cones, some candy dangles, and cupcakes -- things that couldn't be further from my preferences.  But she's her own person and I'm not going to make decisions on how she gets to express her individuality.  (Remember this post?).  I prepared myself to need to prepare the Lady before opening Christmas gifts, coaching her to be cheerful and thankful for this gift she didn't really want. 

She did wonderfully opening the gift and was very thankful.  She seemed to like them okay.  But she was counting down the days until she could take those piercing studs out and put in some of the tacky ones she'd chosen.  During week seven, her earlobes became very irritated.  I think it was a combination of the dry winter air and the fact that we did indeed clean them 3 times a day with that drying alcohol and her skin just couldn't take it anymore.  Her earlobes were just super sensitive but she NEEDED those studs OUT. 

I managed to get them off of her and she chose the candy dangles as her first pair. She was giddy in anticipation.  I got them through the holes and sent her off to play.  It lasted about four minutes.  

She came back to me and said she wanted them OUT.  She didn't like how the dangle felt.  So then we tried a pair of snowflake studs.  But her earlobes were hurting her.  She was whining and complaining and testing my patience.  That's when I decided we would try the gold hoops.   The hoop would be through her ear without having anything contact the lobe skin and give her skin a break.  I explained how these were REAL GOLD though, and so, she wouldn't be able to wear them to school.  Because, of course, what if she were to LOSE one??? 

I wasn't prepared for what happened next.  

It took my breath away. I honestly don't know how else to describe the emotional feeling I felt upon stepping back and glancing at her with those hoops in her ears.  

It was this crazy combination of "wow, she is growing up" and "oh my word, she's like a little you" and "my word, she is so crazy, stunningly beautiful."  Pride and Nostalgia and Joy and Sorrow and Happiness and I don't even know what else were all bursting out of my heart. 

She's worn those gold hoops every day since, for three weeks now.  After a couple of hours I realized I was being stupid and not living by a mantra I want to live my life by.  I'm going to USE the fine china.  We're going to USE the things we own that we like, even if they are fancy.  So for goodness sakes, let her wear the darn gold earrings. And if she loses one, we'll just replace it! Who cares!!!  

I was wrong. I was so, so wrong.  I thought it was foolish of my grandma to buy her gold hoops. I thought they'd sit in a drawer and never get used.  I thought it was a complete waste.  And it turns out I was absolutely dead wrong. And I am so very glad I was!

*This post is part of a collaborative project - a year of stories shared by a group of 15 photographers every Monday in 2016.  Please visit Laura Mood after you read this post to continue the circle.*