Tuesday, November 9, 2010 arrived with a clear early morning that promised to become a chilly, sunny, and typically autumn day. I zipped my coat, buckled my helmet strap, unlocked my bike, and headed off to work. A few minutes later, a garbage truck crossed a bike lane to make a right turn. I was in that bike lane. The tires of the truck crushed my left leg and caused other internal injuries. An amazing team of trauma surgeons saved my life, but they had to amputate my leg to do so.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step. Confucius.

In July 2011, I set off to walk a thousand miles as an above-knee amputee in my new prosthesis. The journey has held more twists, turns, and detours than I ever imagined.

I reached Mile 1000 on March 30, 2013.

But of course, that wasn't the end.

I'll keep walking!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thirteen

Mile Marker 1350:

Noa is 13.  

We stand together at the kitchen counter, looking up words for her 7th grade vocabulary sheet.  One by one, she types them into Dictionary.com, her fingers bouncing easily over the keyboard.  In less than a second, their definitions and parts of speech fill the screen.  When we click on the megaphone icon, a computerized voice pronounces each word for us.  English homework has sure changed since my middle school days!

At 13, I was thrilled to get braces because all my friends had them.  

On Friday nights we dressed in our Jordache jeans and headed -- via parent carpool -- to Young’s Regency, the local hot spot.  There, we dined on soggy pizza and skated to 80’s hits like Come On Eileen and Tainted Love.
 
For my Science Fair project that year, Uncle Steve helped me set up three tanks of fish.  They earned me a 3rd place ribbon, though none of the fish made it to the end of the experiment!  

Sorry guys, but that's 13!
At 13, I was still the tallest kid in my family -- a title I lost the next year, when Mark turned 12 and passed me!  My parents and I were close, in a typical teenager way.  One minute I was shopping with mom or at a Flyers game with dad; the next, we were shouting at each other.

I was uncomfortable and awkward back then.  I wanted to be blonde.  I wanted to be popular.  I had a wishlist a mile long. 

And Science Fair aside, I was not a star student.  Can you blame me?  English homework involved hours of page-turning in a real-live dictionary!


More than 30 years later, at Mile Marker 1350, my college friend Amy brings her daughter Noa to Philly.  I haven't seen Noa in years.  But this weekend, she has a friends’ Bat Mitzvah to attend, and my apartment is the perfect crash pad.

By the way, Noa wears 13 better than I ever did!

Her blond hair, streaked with “Sun-In,” drapes in long, kinky strands across her shoulders.   Without any make-up at all, her eyes sparkle.   Light emanates from her freckles -- and braces.  She’s a figure skater and a swimmer, not to mention a champion Instagram-er.  She texts like it’s her native language.

At lunch, Amy runs to feed the parking meter, leaving Noa and I at the table together.  She tells me about her swim team, and I tell her about my water leg.  When Amy returns, she jokes that Noa's said more to me in 5 minutes than she said during the whole two-hour drive from D.C.!  (Yep.  She's 13, all right.)

Later, Amy shows me an Instagram photo that Noa posted during the car ride.  I don't get Instagram, but I get the idea.  The picture's a "selfie" -- Noa's eyes are cynical, her hoodie's pulled up tight, and her body's scrunched sulkily against the backseat of the car.  The caption is pure 13-year-old angst:  On the way to Philly.  So bored.  Text me please!

But Philly isn't so boring after all.  As we make our way back from lunch, Noa buys a red velvet cupcake at a walk-up bakery window near my building.  Then she hangs out happily in my apartment, texting her friends, while Amy and I go off in search of free parking.

While we're on our own, we stop at an "old school" bakery, Termini's!
Of course, we pick up an
apple turnover for our favorite
13-year-old!

On the surface, there's an edge to Noa that Amy and I are not cool enough to keep up with.  But as I get to know her, I admire Noa more and more.  She possesses a confidence I never had at her age.  She paints her nails with glitter.  She wears sparkly shoes.  She has the courage to walk into a friends' party where she's the only out-of-towner.  

It's not easy to be 13, but Noa handles it like a pro.

At 44, I’m amazed how much she rubs off on me.  I give in to the peer pressure, throw caution to the wind.  We stay out till midnight (to pick Noa up from her party).   I skip my night-time shower (because I’m too darn tired).  I eat Termini's pastries for breakfast (instead of the sensible cereal and yogurt).  Whoo-hoo!  It's like my own post-teenage rebellion!

Early Sunday morning, I emerge from my bedroom to find Noa on the couch, playing with her phone.  We whisper back and forth, so as not to wake Amy.  Noa asks me thoughtful questions about the accident, about my prosthesis. 

"Do you wish you still had 2 legs?"  It's her final question.

"Sure," I tell her.  Of course I'd rather have 2 legs.  

But really, I've come a long way since 13.  And so has my wishlist.

After breakfast, I entrust my Genium and water leg into Noa's capable hands.  Turns out, she is a NAIL POLISH EXPERT.  We paint my 15 toes a bright shade of autumn gold.


The weekend whizzes by.  Amy washes the breakfast dishes while I walk Noa through her English homework. 

...closed for the government shut-down!
Outside, we breeze by the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall...





We peer into the windows of Elfreth's Alley and shop the quirky Old City stores.




We even make a second trip to Termini’s, this time for treats to take home to D.C.! 
You can never have too many cannolis!

As we make our way back to my apartment one last time, I watch Noa wrap her arms around Amy's waist.  “Thanks for bringing me to Philadelphia, Mom,” I hear her say.

The pricelessness of the comment isn't lost on me.

No, I don’t have my own 13-year-old.  But I’ve been one.

Thirteen is tough to forget.

4 comments:

  1. Boy I needed that tonight - you made my teenager seem human! We had a fabulous trip, loved seeing you and the whole Lev clan! Xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  2. You never cease to inspire!!! :)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great post, Rebecca. Noa will remember, prolly when she least expects it, her visit/weekend with the "Amazing Rebecca" for the rest of her life! I'll betcha!

    ReplyDelete