I spent this past weekend at home. Friday afternoon, I buckled Oswald in the car, packed up my essentials (which, it turns out, doesn’t include essential items like deodorant and contacts), stopped for a latte for the road, and pointed my headlights down 82 east. Then my mom called to tell me they were admitting my littlest buddy to the hospital for pneumonia. I didn’t have to come, she said. But how soon could I get there?
So, spring break mania has taken a different turn. Suddenly, I was watching my boy cry crocodile tears of pain while a nurse tried over and over to get an IV into his little veins. (By the way, I realized that the desire that one has to suddenly insert herself into her hurting loved baby’s shoes isn’t so much about selflessness at all; quite contrarily, it’s about doing whatever it is that can ease the sharp stabbing that arises in her own chest during such situations where crocodile tears of pain are involved. I wanted to scream, “Take my arm!”) We did a lot of waiting around and feeling worried and stressed. I did a fair amount of sleeping in the house alone; the parents did a fair amount of not sleeping at all in the hospital. But Taylor’s doing just fine. In fact, he got extra excited at the thought of four days home from school. “Lindsey,” he said last night, “I’ve been thinking about it, and I want french toast, eggs, and bacon for breakfast tomorrow.” We think he’s going to be OK.
This weekend asked me to do something else, too, something almost as difficult. “Hey,” the two 15-year-olds in my house asked as they silently strode around, “Remember what it’s like to be 15?” There’s a niece who’s more like a sister, and a sister who grew up while I was off doing something else. Now they’re both in this one house and I’m afraid it’s too much angst for two parents and one eight-year-old to handle. The mother is ready to rip her hair out. “I was like that,” I said, sort of unknowingly, because I don’t really remember. Luckily, (unluckily?) there are pictures for that.
Do you remember? It wasn’t that long ago, I realize; it’s just that a lot has happened since then. For one, I got my braces off. For another, I figured out (sort of) how to control my hair, emotions, and temper. Jesus has gently drawn me along this beautiful path, breaking chains along the way that transformed me from an angry, angsty, tumultuous teenager into someone who, well, laughs and such. They seem like such a mystery to me now; hello, we have the COOLEST mom and you guys get to live with her! She makes you dinner! I have to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner, WHY ARE YOU SO ANGSTY? But then, it all starts to come back. I remember those contraries stirring up within you: You are ready, but you’re scared. You want to be free, but you want to be safe. You have opinions, but nobody will listen to you. You cannot possibly imagine high school could last any longer; but one day, it’s all over. If I could tell them anything, this is what I’d say.
For one thing, it gets easier. You start to realize that the Lord loves you—every stinking part of you—just as much as He loves anyone else, and that makes you a pretty cool person. You start to love the person you are, and if you don’t, it hits you that you can change. You go away and you don’t feel grown up enough to be allowed to decide what to eat for dinner all on your own, but suddenly, one day, you’re just making decisions left and right and you realize you’ve made it. To 18, anyway.
The truth of the matter is that I can talk to them until my face is blue and I’m out of breath and a cookie is the only thing that’s going to make me feel better, but they look at me like I’ve just told them to stick their heads in the toilet and flush three times. I couldn’t possibly understand, you know, because I don’t have to live here and go to high school and be subject to the tyrants who force them to unload the dishwasher. (And I’m not making light of that. Unloading the dishwasher is the worst chore in the land of Squeaky Clean.) And, I have to admit, it’s hard to remember then because the me who was then gave way to the me who is now and the line between them is so fuzzy. But I do remember pitching fits and thinking over and over, “They don’t understand.” But I do. I understand. Life’s not a bowl of cherries, my mother once told me. I’d say the older you get, the more you learn to count your cherries. Moms who cook you dinner? That’s a lot of cherries, girls.
I will not tell you, “Savor this! You’re going to miss it!” Let’s all take a moment to think about age 15 and agree that while it was fun, it works nicely as a once-in-a-lifetime kind of deal. Being 15 is fun. High school is fun. But lovely girls, you have lives ahead of you that are bursting with fun, so don’t worry about that. (For the record, college is fun, too. God is a fun God, and He’s got all sorts of adventures stored up for you.) I don’t even want to take away your angst, though that is one of those things you’re going to think about in the future and be really confused about. “What was my deal?” you’ll wonder, and you won’t really know, because you won’t remember the goings-on in the head of your 15-year-old self, so you’ll just shake your head and smile.
I’m well-convinced that I’ll look back on my 21-year-old self with my 27-/34-/46-year-old brain and shake my head with that same sweet smile. “What were you thinking?” I’ll ask. (Give me a break, 46-year-old self. Skinny jeans are in style, I swear it.) Truthfully, I’m just hoping they don’t figure out that it’s lattes causing third eyes or I’m going to have to deal with some serious self guilt, if you know what I’m saying.
Do you know what I’m saying? You’re shaking your head now, aren’t you? That’s okay. You can do that. You just can’t talk back to your parents. You can’t make C’s in school. And you have to unload the dishwasher. Everything else will be covered by the grace of God, and you’ll find yourself rejoicing. This I promise.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go make eggs for a certain miniature human demanding breakfast, but I’ll leave you with one last thought about the perfection that is our lives, all intertwined and separate.
If freckles were lovely, and day was night,
And measles were nice and a lie warn’t a lie, Life would be delight,–
But things couldn’t go right
For in such a sad plight
I wouldn’t be I.
If earth was heaven and now was hence,
And past was present, and false was true,
There might be some sense
But I’d be in suspense
For on such a pretense
You wouldn’t be you.
If fear was plucky, and globes were square,
And dirt was cleanly and tears were glee
Things would seem fair,–
Yet they’d all despair,
For if here was there
We wouldn’t be we.