Posted by Duff

girlinmeadow.jpg girl in meadow picture by duffoliverSome of you may remember my recent post about halving your child’s age and spending a moment in an old photograph for perspective.

As life lessons would have it, I was recently afforded the opportunity to do this with my own age. With living, breathing photographs.

This past Saturday, I took a Dervish-free trip to the store, which, despite my quest for diapers, was a reminder of pre-baby life, ease of movement. And when I came back out to the parking lot (holding a large box of Pampers Cruisers), I ran into the local high school girls’ volleyball team, asking for support. The monetary kind. I was once one of them, half my lifetime ago, so I couldn’t resist.

“I only have $1 in cash,” I admitted, embarrassed. “But I want to contribute.”

They were appreciative, and offered me some melted Snickers bites. They looked just like we used to look, minus the big hair. And I envied them, for more than just youth. They brought me back to my senior year in high school — and everything it stood for.

Mostly, possibilities. And a blank slate.

I had big plans. Most of them involved getting out of my small hometown in favor of different cities, states, and countries. Making it on my own. Reinventing myself. Staying awake through a lot of sunrises. Dating the wrong men for no reason other than to make mistakes after always having done the right thing. I was after life experience, because I had so little.

I didn’t know that so clearly at the time. But that must have been what I was after, because that’s what I chased after and found so much of. And complained about, as I longed for stability.

That damn grass is always greener.

I wonder if any of the girls’ team is anything like me. Statistically, one of them would have to be. She just probably doesn’t know it yet. And good thing, because she’d be exhausted to embark on the next decade or two when she should be focused on one of the best years of her life so far. So far.

After seventeen years of trying so hard to get away from who I started out as and where I’m from, I have come back to the same place. I drive the same streets home from the store that I drove to and from my high school job. The Dervish will go to my same (though renovated) elementary school.

Then it occurs to me that the Dervish and I might share more than an elementary school experience. That who she is at two (and who I was at two) says a lot about the kind of person she will become. She doesn’t stay in the same place for very long now. I can’t imagine she’ll be any less of a butterfly at 17.  I can’t hold her back. I can’t prevent the mistakes she wants and needs to make.

I just want to hold her tight and beg her to be careful. But that’s no kind of Coming Of Age for a person like her. These days, as she (frequently) does something outside my comfort zone, she tells me before I have a chance to tell her: “Be careful (though she says ‘be waffle’). I’ll get hurt.” 

I don’t want to leave the girls’ team. I want to sit with them, and listen to them talk, and be reminded of the time before I knew what I came to know. But I can’t stay there forever. I have a Dervish waiting for me, and a better husband than I imagined, both of them making 34 a better place to be than 17.

“Good luck,” I say to the girls. But I don’t just mean with their volleyball season. They thank me in a chorus, and I pick up my Pampers and go home.