Bringing Up Baby

Back in the early 90s I went to Florida as the adult female chaperone to our small church’s youth group. My task was to wrangle the hormonal teenage girls into some semblance of decorum while keeping peace among them, hoping the only tangles would be from cords of their blow driers or curling irons dappled with a minimal amount of hurt feelings. Maintaining a safe distance from their boyfriends downstairs added another dimension and perhaps the trickiest to the “other duties as assigned” on my short-term job description.

I recently had lunch with one of those former teenage girls. But unlike watching reruns of a favorite television show that you enjoyed as a child, you can’t take up where you left off with the characters remaining the same age. In real life, time continues. The characters age. She’s now 34, older than I was on that trip. It’s weird, like a time warp happened, learning about her life and the lives of others we knew. They’ve faced struggles that we didn’t plan on, made decisions we hoped we had prepared them for or warned them against. They’ve had successes and failures alike. They’ve dealt with weddings, divorces, miscarriages, births, cancer, moves, job changes—all those circumstances that define our adult lives. They’ve handled them in their own ways and have come out stronger and truer to themselves as a result.

I admire these young women, ones who may always be teenagers in my memory. But now we can meet on a different level. I hope to have the opportunity to do just that, as long as they’ll realize that they’ve caught up with me and nothing more.

Being the youngest in my family and always one of the youngest in my classes, and generally hanging around with people who are older than I am, learning how to be viewed as an older person still feels foreign to me. I think that’s why I like being the signature pink hatter in a local group of Red Hat Society. I like feeling young. (My stars, I sound like my mother!) I thought I WAS young. Then these little peeps had to grow up and prove otherwise. Thus adding to my slogan: I’m older than I think I am and younger than I feel. Better run take some fish oil before my joints lock up.

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