In the summer of 2005 Hurricane Katrina struck Louisiana, Lance Armstrong retired, and Clint Harrison asked me to marry him. I was twenty years old, and if you’d given me wings I’d have sailed straight to the moon. I’d like to think I took off the rose-colored glasses every now and then by reading marriage books and talking to wiser women, but the truth is, everything was tinged with Tinkerbell-like optimism. Sprinkled with pixie dust and all the most tender hopes of my heart.
Once while we were engaged, we stole away into the woods by our college campus. It was the perfect fall day, and Clint (filled with his usual supply of boundless energy) told wild stories, chased me through the leaves, and laughed like a kid. And then I saw them. Each one of our future children…running around his legs, jumping on his back, squealing in the Autumn air. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. A moment when I knew I was about to begin a beautiful adventure, the one I’d been waiting for.
I thought about that girl today. The one standing in the woods with a ring on her finger and stars in her eyes. I couldn’t help but wonder how she would feel if she could see me now, nearly ten years later. Would she be proud of the woman I’ve become? Or disappointed? Would she look at my life and smile? Or frown? I’ve always thought I could teach that girl a lot if I owned a time machine. I would teach her that in the adventure of being a wife and mom, sometimes you look more like the wicked step-mother than the gracious queen. Sometimes the palace smells like the stable, and the prince makes you want to joust instead of dance. I would teach her that embracing boredom is brave and chasing fairytales is foolish. That the princesses of perfection and performance are actually the enemies, and the monsters of suffering and difficulty are the friends you must learn to love.
I would teach her all these things, and I imagine she’d be better for it. But today for the first time I wondered, if I shut my older and wiser mouth for just a second, what might she teach me?
Might she remind me how long we waited to be loved by a man, and how perhaps those dirty socks by the front door really weren’t worth the ugly words? Would she remind me that we once held baby dolls in our arms and longed for the day when they would be real? I think she would. I think she would remind me of all that and more.
I think she would tell me there’s a fine line between “growing realistic” and growing cynical. And that irritation…or endearment…are choices we make every day. I think if that girl from the woods could see me now, she’d tell me to open my eyes. To realize I’m rich in all the ways I’ve always hoped to be, save one. I am poor in gratitude. And as a result my heart may be older and wiser, but it is also harder.
So you know what I am thankful for today? I am thankful for that girl. That young, naive, foolish girl…with the soft and tender heart. And I am praying that I welcome a little more of her back into my life everyday.
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