“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.”

Here, Rachel considers the way that people age. She imagines that ages stack atop one another, and proposes that people are a product of all the ages they have ever been rather than merely the age they are at present. Rachel is not just eleven, and might not be until she is almost twelve; rather she is ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and so on. Her thoughts and reactions she often attributes to one age or another, and they all exist within her at once, emerging as needed as she exists and reacts to the world.

“Not mine, not mine, not mine.”

Rachel is eleven years old and still learning to verbalize her thoughts and feelings. This quote captures what she’s thinking but unable to say out loud, and contrasts with the feeble protests she’s able to offer Mrs. Price. In her narrative, Rachel is sure of herself, adamant that sweater doesn’t belong to her; in conversing with Mrs. Price in front of the other kids, Rachel crumbles and is ultimately forced to accept the sweater.

“I wish I was invisible but I’m not. I’m eleven and it’s my birthday today and I’m crying like I’m three in front of everybody.”

After Mrs. Price forces her to put on the sweater in front of everyone, Rachel cannot contain herself anymore. She bursts into tears, sobbing at her desk at the humiliation she feels at being powerless. It is a cathartic moment for Rachel, who has been trying her best to assert herself and keep her emotions in check in the face of disdainful authority. It is telling that there is no indication that Mrs. Price is affected by Rachel’s breakdown. It seems cruel to put a child in such a position, to demean and minimize their feelings. It also seems that Mrs. Price’s actions were deliberately designed to humiliate Rachel, as her emotional breakdown does not compel Mrs. Price to rethink her position or comfort Rachel in any way.

“I wish I was anything but eleven, because I want today to be far away already, far away like a runaway balloon, like a tiny o in the sky, so tiny tiny you have to close your eyes to see it.”

Rachel wants to remove herself from the deep embarrassment of her day. She has felt too many difficult emotions today—on her birthday, of all days—and it is understandable that she wants to get away entirely. This quote mirrors the desire to be invisible that is stated earlier in the text. Her frame of reference is that of a child. When she visualizes being far away, what comes to mind is a balloon floating in the sky, evoking a childlike innocence that grounds the narrative in Rachel’s youthful perspective.