Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Make Mine a Memory

I went to a high school volleyball game tonight. A young woman I know sat near me and was attending a game for the first time since graduating high school herself just a few years ago. She commented on how the knee pads had changed. The length of the socks was different. The girls had gotten new uniforms. I could tell this bothered her. She sort of pulled up her nose and said “I don’t like those knee pads. Why do they wear black ones now? And what’s up with those short socks? That looks weird.” We laughed and someone said “Hey, Kari, you’re just getting older like the rest of us.” She was not enjoying this new feeling and protested very loudly. “No….. I’m only 21. I’m not that old yet.” We laughed again. “But you’re not in high school anymore either.” The look in her eyes as these words sunk in showed me that she was in a sort of painful denial that the life she had to leave behind had gone on without her. No one in that school remembers her name. The uniforms have changed, the look of the students has changed and in her absence these changes taking place have left her feeling out of touch and unsure why.

My friend and I talked about that on the ride home from the game. We talked about how we so naturally flow through the stages of life. We both have teenagers now and have long since left the stay at home mom with toddlers stage of life. But it wasn’t that long ago that I cruised up to pick my daughter up from the swimming pool and saw the newest gang of young mom’s dangling their toes into the depths of the kiddie pool and felt a little pang for who I wasn’t anymore.

I’ve been doing some reflecting lately. A lot of sizing up the past and piecing it into the present. Watching Kari struggle tonight to let go completely of that teenage perception of herself made me suddenly so thankful for my 34 years. I smiled as I turned away from the conversation and looked out on the sea of generations that were cheering on their teams. I realized that I was very content to be 34 tonight. I’ve had to part with some pretty great era’s in my life already. But I’m so glad I wasn’t given the choice to remain. Those times have become memories, and rich ones at that.

I wish I’d been in a quiet place with Kari tonight, so that I could have encouraged her. I would have told her about how thankful I am to not be a teen or a twenty two year old anymore. I would have told her that even though my face is starting to show the signs of time and even though I’m at least two whole steps slower on the volleyball court than I once was, and even though I don’t look so hot in even my cutest jeans I wouldn’t trade a minute in. I have experienced life deeply and fully through all those stages so far and I don’t want to waste a minute of this moment being sorry that I’m here. I want to tell her that it’s okay to leave that stage behind. It isn’t waiting for you to come back.

As I look back on what has become my story, I realize the significance of my past and how those events have an effect on my life as I live it now. I look back with a sense of awe at how the story has unfolded, which causes me to look ahead with excitement toward what is yet to come. I’m thankful for the passage of time. Sure, like everyone, I wish it could go a little slower, but I’m so thankful it just keeps marching on. I love what I’ve learned so far.

I enjoyed being 16. And I was really in love with 25. But I’ve gained so much in the first 34 years I don’t want to stop now. Bring on the experiences and let me drink them in so deeply. Let me move through them with intentional passion and let them leave me with few regrets. I don't fear getting older.

Some people go through their lives trying to recapture their youth. As for me… make mine a memory. There’s so much new to experience today.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

First Love

I remember my first love. They say everyone does. I guess it’s not quite right to call it love now that I know love. In context true love is something entirely other, in fact. But first love; first love has that mix of heart engulfing emotion and teenage passion that we never quite get to experience again. That’s what makes it so memorable. Those years represent a time in life when we were ego centric and it seemed okay to be. We were teenagers.

I dated a senior who was from my town but not my school. I was just a sophomore. He was cyclist, a runner, student body president, and the homecoming king. I thought he hung the moon. His mom had passed away tragically when he was 14. His father had left his mother during her pregnancy with him. I guess, looking back the reason Human Services never intervened for him was because the man his mother had married was technically living with him. I say technically because this man managed road crews. The kind that travel for months at a time. My first love, had been on his own for the most critical part of his childhood. The fact that he was an amazing boy-man even through all of that is probably what attracted me and then held me in “love’s” grasp so strongly. He was an honor student and head of one of those anti drinking groups in his school. His friends were people who’d already experienced the toughest stuff of life with him. There for him through his mom’s illness and death, they became his family. It was a privilege to be around that brotherhood. It set a standard in friendship for me and I feel blessed by that still today.

When I look back on those days it’s as if this chunk of time were lived by someone else. The experiences were so poignant that the memories are still crisp and vivid. It’s the stuff of great drama and unimaginably deep and colorful characters. That time is sealed up tightly on a reel somewhere deep in my mind and when I visit it on rare occasion it’s like watching some sort of television series.. The kind of series you wish would never have to get canceled.

Oh, it’s not that I’d trade my one true love, that man I’m married to, whom I adore, to go back and make things work out. No, as I said before, first love is so very different from true love and true love wins every time. What I mean is; that was a very beautiful time filled with experiences that were all so new and fresh and I guess I just feel really blessed that they were so positive and that there are so few regrets. I know many people who’s stories of first love were difficult and painful. And it’s a gift to have memories like mine. Memories of a time that involves so much more than just a boy. These were the experiences of some sort of teenage community that we formed and that ended up forming us.

Last night I looked across the gym as my middle son interacted with his friends at a high school volleyball game. My son is a sophomore. He’s at the age I was when I met “the boy”. There’s this girl I know he likes. He’s been liking her for a while. And then there’s this other girl who likes him a lot and who I know he’s gotten close to. I watched from afar as teenage drama was played out in the student body section. Body language exchanged, side long glances, the brushing of a shoulder, a hand. Girls with their giggles and hair whipping turns to flirt with the boy behind them. Boys shoving each other around some sort of macho mating call I still don’t understand. I watched and I remembered. And I prayed. I prayed that my son would get to remember these days as something beautiful and priceless. That his memories would prove to be important, life shaping moments that hold little regret. That he’ll get to look back on these days realize that he learned something of grace and love mingled in all that poignant drama and teenage passion.

I can’t control what happens for him anymore. I wish I could. But this is his story now. It may not be as positive a chapter for him as it was for me, but he’ll learn and he’ll grow, and eventually, I know he’ll find true love, even if first love turns out to be something other. I have a feeling I know who she’ll be, the true love girl. Just, that mom sense we all have. But that chapter hasn’t been written yet. And I’m okay waiting a few years to find out.