Category Archives: growing up

God, we need that from you.

jeeps

I lost a piece of my heart + soul in the back of that red Jeep Wrangler. It tumbled atop the stretch of I-95 along the central coast of Jersey. I don’t remember where we were headed that day, just that some cars hold hearts and some cars hold belongings and some cars hold precious precious cargo that feels like both.

That car felt like freedom for a little girl who often wore dresses on Sunday mornings and tripped up Sunday school stairs to find her mom chatting about Lent and the things we give & the things we give up.

That girl sat pretty and proper in the empty classroom while her mom chatted, and the other kids pushed through double glass doors, spilling into the sunbaked parking lot. They hoisted each other into caravan side doors. Cars revved and reversed and vroomed into the winding road away from God & his Lent, but she stayed. She stayed and they went, to find a chocolate frosted donut and greasy hash browns and steaming, milky coffee. Shoved God to the third row of seats, beneath collapsible dog crates and soccer cleats, while she patted her knees together and Mom kept chatting.

She was different, quiet. Other kids rubbed their faces with sticky sprinkled donuts and she held onto the taste of chocolate icing rimming her fingertips.

For her, God was a quiet man, a patient man, a man who looked at soccer cleats with grass & mud caked spikes, with dirtied Sunday school textbooks, and shook his head. A proper line, she thought. Walk a proper line and iron your skirts and never miss a Sunday school lesson and that is how you live. That is life.

That Jeep Wrangler felt free. It felt wild. It felt reckless.

Five years later, a red Jeep crashed on the side of a winding rural road, much like the ones she traced home after Sunday school. All infinities, she knew then, had endings. All rushes had to settle.

She curled back into that churchgoer self. She stayed quiet. She lost hope. She forgot that car crashes and Jeeps had everything to do with living a full live — not nothing, like she once thought. So instead, she quit things she loved. She set bravery aside. She apologized to herself, and others, for existing, for choosing silliness.

Ten years passed before she stopped walking with apologies. Ten years passed before she decided differently. Nobody, she said, nobody deserves to hold themselves quiet. We are rays of sun. We are stars at the end of someone’s life, especially if that someone dies too soon. We are bright and shiny and brave and important and God, we need that from you. God, we do.

We Are In Different Ponds

pond-girls-feet

I’ve been crafting her story for three weeks now. That’s the blogger in me: I see a date, a life moment, and it billows into a hurdle and my knees get cramped and my legs get heavy and my head gets cloudy and I cannot find words for days. So I lie in bed and say “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will write you a story, or a song, or a poem, or a letter.” And tomorrow becomes next Monday and three Thursdays from now. So I had to stop. I had to write it best I could.

A friend of mine once said paper makes you honest. I hunkered down onto my couch with a pen and notebook and got honest for a short hour. Here goes.

[one]

I’ve been preparing to lose her for ten or fifteen or twenty years. Give or take. Maybe since the day she wrapped her pudgy fingers around her purple vinyl Pocahontas suitcase and marched to the end of the block. Maybe it was then that I knew she had an inclination, a tendency, an urge to push away from the safe harbor, our driveway and the little yellow house with dark green shutters, and wait for an uncertain future to gift her with adventure.

If she had been alive in 1912, she would have been a fierce Irish girl with poppies of freckles dotting the bridge of her nose and her cheekbones. She would have been a real Rose Dawson. Me, I would have been back in Ireland, peddling on the cobblestone streets. In the last century, nothing much has changed.

[two]

He asked me, last week. “You gonna cry?” He said it the way humans do when they fear the answer, the truth, because it’s not such a far shout into the void from a moment they once knew. Empathy spills over them then, hushing their vocal chords with the thick syrup of sadness. It’s all they can do not to say, “I’m sorry. I know. You’re allowed to be sad.”

“I might,” I said. “I just might.”

I did. Cry, I mean. At the end of a long, late night movie, with a dark theatre full of strangers, I praised God for thick blue plastic glasses shielding my face. Because sometimes God blesses you with silent tears, and as long as the world cannot see your eyes, you are fine. You are so very fine.

I saw her on that screen, falling like some Alice in Wonderland to her death. I saw her and I had to let her go. I couldn’t catch her.

We learn that lesson ad nausea – that you cannot save people from themselves, from their enemies, from their brokenness, from their final moments.

A story is circling the globe right now about a boy named Ryan, a boy who ran out into the street to retrieve a Frisbee and was hit by an oncoming car. He died. Ryan with his bright red hair and his big smile, he died. That story could have owned him, but I pray it doesn’t.

[three]

I gasped when I learned it. I imagined her, of course, a six or eight or ten-year-old girl, playing on the front lawns of our neighborhood, dashing into the center of the road where a stray Whiffle ball or hockey puck had settled.

She was a wild one, still is, and that story could have owned her, too.

Just before prom, her date admitted he had no intention of taking her. She and her friends scraped together enough funds and a touch of courage to ask a sweet underclassman if he would be so kind as to come with her. He did. I thank him for it. But it was then I started worrying about her – her heart & the real possibility that it would someday be tested.

I had to learn, in the way that Ryan’s parents will never learn, that she won’t always be ready – to have life gut her soul & test her faith, among other things.

[four]

She’s sleeping solitarily and soundly in the south now. And I’m not going to cry about it. And I’m not going to worry about her. Because I know that we leap before we are ready and the rest of us, the rest of the people who love her, will just have to follow her lead.

And maybe one day she’ll call – about a white dress and a ring on her left hand – or a job that she only could have dreamed about – or the little shack she’s secured downtown for herself – but for now, we are in different ponds.

That’s how she says it: “We are in different ponds.”

I wish, I always always wish, that someday God will give us the same pond to play in, but most days, I think we got that pond at a time when Barbie and basketball courts and balloon animals made their way into our days. And those are over. That pond is gone.

A List of Things I Want For You

alistofthingsiwantforyou

01.

One day, she’ll call me from a street corner downtown. She’ll press her fingertips against that storefront glass and that white dress will reflect in her hazel eyes. And she’ll cry as she tells me because she, she is the kind of girl you love forever.

02.

One day, he’ll call me feet red and raw, ballet shoes folded in his bag. He’ll wipe the beads of sweat sticking to his forehead as he tells me that finally, finally it’s his time to shine.

03.

We’ll be sitting at the breakfast table on Christmas morning when she leans over, quietly whispering that she’s found a place to tuck herself in. That she’s already picked out paint chips for the wall colors and she’s having couches imported from North Carolina and “want to come see it? Want to come see it someday?” Yes, I’ll say yes.

04.

He’ll be standing on the sidelines, suit freshly pressed, headset over his ears. He’ll send me a text message because that’s his way. He’ll tell me that he has tickets to next week’s game, tickets at Will Call, and he wants me to come. I’ll come.

05.

I’ll sit in the stands while he beams up at us, beads in a row of necklace string crowds, all of us strangers together in this little ceremony of goodbye. We’ll whisk him off to college & hope people fall in love with his heart & his smile the way we do every time he pulls us close. We’ll pray he never forgets to end a call with “I love you.”

06.

She’ll call from the back office, trays of food shattering across the wood paneled floor in the background. She’ll pause only a second before she turns back to me, focused, heart set on leaving. “Leaving,” she’ll say. “I’m finally leaving.” She’ll tell me about the phone call, the role, the way they dreamed of only her sliding across the set and slipping on this story for size. And I’ll wish her luck. I’ll wish her home sometimes, but mostly, I’ll wish her luck.

10 Lessons From Hopscotching Through My Early 20s

hopscotch-through-20s

They once were babies.

That thought envelopes me.

They once upon a time were diapers at the foot of their bed, thick hooded sweatshirts and elastic pants and now they’re not.

They’re in high school & college. Some are graduating in May. And since I’ve hopscotched around the East Coast enough to know that growing up is a mess, I have words for them.

  1. Find someone who steadies you when you’re stressed about the rent check, your electric bill, the things you did wrong at work, the credit card payment you swore you scheduled but really, believe me, didn’t.
  2. Hold them close & treat them right & tell them over & over that you are thankful & appreciative & lucky & blessed. You will need them, and you won’t ever know when.
  3. Make decisions to carry you through today & tomorrow & next month, but know that six months from now could look a lot less like you expected. Don’t let your upsets keep you from finding something better.
  4. Work hard. Work when you have to but even when you don’t. Be responsive. Be attentive. Be respectful. Be the kind of employee who does what’s right – not what looks good. Be lazy on Sunday when the football game comes on but on Monday morning, be ready.
  5. Chin up & smile. You are a learner. In everything you do, you’ll learn. Over & over you’ll think that life is about messing up & making the same mistakes but one day you’ll wake up and stop making them. One day you’ll appreciate all the criticism because you grew.
  6. Learn how to dress appropriately. There are outfits for Friday night & outfits for Casual Friday & outfits for important meetings & outfits for every other day. Be conservative. Pay attention. Learn to accessorize.
  7. Stretch yourself. Throw a dart at your target and promise yourself you won’t let fear or anxiety or lack of resources or lack of knowledge stop you. Do things that frighten you because you’ll land somewhere new & better.
  8. When you’re unhappy, change something. Your hair. Your outlook. Your routine. Find a place in your heart for new people. Find a place in your schedule for old friends. Find the root of your unhappiness & crush it.
  9. Be a mentor. Teach people. Help people. Figure out what fulfills you and run like the wind toward it.
  10. Give & give & give. Give your time & your knowledge & your heart & your love & your resources. Give people the kind of friendship that makes them feel grateful. Focus on the relationships & the efforts that make your heart soar. It’s time.