I have a sixteen year old goddaughter. When I was asked to be Lacey’s Godmother I was honoured but had very little idea what was involved. I had a vague impression of me swanning around all sweetness and light, singing catchy little inspirational ditties like the Fairy Godmother in Disney’s Cinderella.
The original role of the godmother was to provide a Christian mentor for the child who would help the parents instruct their child in the Christian faith. These days the role of the godparents is often less about religious instruction and more about offering support to the parents; and acting as a role model for the child.
I am happy to say I have a very good relationship (though not a particularly religious one) with my goddaughter. In fact, I regard her as the daughter I never had. We often call each other just for a chat, sometimes she visits after school or on weekends. She is growing into a sensitive, caring, responsible young adult. It’s nice to see, heartwarming.
Lacey came over today after school, clearly agitated. She had something on her mind. “Don’t let it be drugs,” I thought. “Or an eating disorder, or heaven forbid, a sexually transmitted disease.” Lacey sat at the kitchen counter, her glass of Diet Coke untouched. I saw she was psyching herself up to say something. I felt like a leafless tree shifting in the winter breeze. “Spit it out,” I wanted to shout. “Spit it out.”
“I’m in love,” Lacey gushed. “And when I’m not with him I can’t stand it. Mum thinks we’re getting too serious. She wants me to concentrate on my studies but I can’t study. All I can do is think of him. It’s tearing me apart.”
I stand dazed, one foot in the present, wanting to cry out : “You have no idea what love really is. You’re young, you’re impressionable. It’s just an infatuation!”; one foot sliding back to the past, remembering teenage love, first love – the heartfelt flush of it, the great expectations, the sense that this was what all the poets had been talking about, that this was what it meant to be truly alive.
Lacey’s eyes shine with unshed tears, she bites her lip, twists at a button on her school blouse. Sometimes the enormity of feeling that accompanies happiness makes the good times indistinguishable from the bad. Lacey seems more like a tortured heroine than a woman in love.
Matt is also at school. He wants to be a marine biologist. Lacey has a picture of him on her mobile phone. He is cute, non-threatening. I wonder if he is aware of the depth of feeling he has aroused. “I feel like I’m in limbo when I’m not with him,” says Lacey. “I just drift. I can’t finish anything. I only feel alive when I see him. Mum doesn’t understand. She thinks I’m being melodramatic. She thinks I need to get a grip.”
Let he or she who hasn’t succumbed to a drop of melodrama at some stage in their romantic history cast the first stone, that’s what I say. Why, entire kingdoms have been built on melodrama. Look at Arthur and Guinevere, Tristan and Isolde, Paul McCartney and Heather Mills. Melodrama keeps the paparazzi and the entire stable of talent at E News in business.
“Everything’s just so intense,” says Lacey. “I long for him. Sometimes it’s exhausting. I feel like I exist just to see his face.”
I remember those heady days of young love. Calling each other five or six times after school and talking for hours. Finishing conversations with “You hang up first”, “No, you hang up first….” Carving your initials in a school desk or writing it on the bathroom wall. Having his name emblazoned on every single folder and notebook you possess. Sending him notes across a crowded classroom that say nothing more than I Love You.
I am lost in a daydream. Hearts float around my head like I am a character from an Archie comic. I am wearing very lustrous lip gloss and Charlie perfume. My hair is in pigtails and I have knee-hi socks. I am chewing strawberry Hubba Bubba. Endless Love is playing in the background….
‘And your eyes, they tell me how much you care…’
“Matt and I want to have sex,” says Lacey. The needle scrapes across the record. “Well, he wants to wait, he doesn’t believe in premarital sex, but I just can’t wait. It’ll be so romantic, we’ll be together as one, forever.” HHmmm. How much does Lacey actually know about sex, I wonder. More importantly, how much does Matt know?
“I can see you’re shocked, Selma,” Lacey goes on. “But being a teenager in the 21st century isn’t like it was in the 1950s.”
Wait a minute, I wasn’t even alive in the 1950s.
“We know everything there is to know about sex now.” Lacey lists her extensive knowledge of the subject in bullet points, banging her hand on the kitchen counter for emphasis. She is right, she does know everything there is to know about sex. She has also answered a few queries I had.
“But there is one thing I don’t know that I need to ask you about,” she says. I shudder, fearful of what it might be. I mean, the girl could write a modern day Kama Sutra with her eyes closed. What more could there be?
“I need to know if he’ll still call me afterwards,” she says. My sigh fills the kitchen like a sigh from Aphrodite herself. The eternal question that has remained unanswered for millennia. Will you still love me tomorrow? Many more qualified than I have tried to answer this question, Candace Bushnell has made an entire career out of it, yet the answer remains as elusive as a leaf floating down a swift-flowing river. “There’s no way of knowing for sure,” I reply.
Lacey and I sit in the garden, drinking tea, watching the honeyeaters sup from crimson and dark purple fuchsia bells. “Why is love such a powerful emotion?” Lacey asks. This one I know the answer to. The answer is no fairytale, no chivalric romance. It’s the simple truth. “Because it’s what makes the world go round….” I say.
Lacey nods, linking her arm through mine. She finishes her tea as dusk steals the light from the garden. We sit in silence like old friends. She gathers up her things with an expression almost of regret. And all at once I can see that suddenly, as if thrust forward in time, she is wiser to the ways of love.