A few weeks ago my family got together at “the Farm” (during which time it was officially christened “Weaverville”). It was especially special— all of us were there, from the youngest to the oldest. Speaking of which, I know quite a bit about being the youngest in the family.
Being the “baby” has always struck me as a bit of a blessing. There is the proverbial spoiled last child which I heard about through all my growing up years, and which I can’t deny. In fact, I can testify to it more than most, I dare say. But the thing I like about being at the tail end is this safe 5-year distance from which I can observe all my older siblings on the path ahead of me, so to speak. The path of life, you know. I watched them all get married, raise (and plan) their families, struggle and wrestle through transitions and relationships and God-questions and finances. All this I observed from the blushing innocence of my youth. And I found it to be a real treat.
The interesting thing now is that half of my family is in their midlife crisis and the other half is in adolescence. I know adolescence has its moments of turbulence; I watched 4 siblings lurch through the teens before I got there. What I hadn’t realized is that midlife has its own moments of turbulence; maybe that’s why they call it a crisis. Instead of slamming doors, you sell the house. Instead of skipping school, you go back. Acne isn’t the problem in the mirror, but those gray hairs are just as indicative. Hormones are kind of like the elephant in the room, again.
I said half my family is in midlife crisis and the other half in adolescence. Now, what you have to understand is that one of the halves is the parents and the other half is their children. Their very own children. Does it seem like a divine and beautiful plan that just when these wild acned teens need the firm and steady hand of guidance, their mature parents uproot them like little carrots? Finally everyone is sleeping through the night and brushing their teeth without being told and certain people could be letting out long, satisfied sighs from the comfort of their easy chairs— but instead it’s lets sell everything and move to Russia and start a zoo. I may be paraphrasing, but that is what it sounds like to me, at this absolutely sane, staid, childbearing age of 28.
One night at the Farm, we sat around the campfire and bared our hearts to one another by lifting the curtain on our goals and dreams, just a little. It was very beautiful and holy, but also really frightening because I saw something new. The new thing I saw was that when you turn 40, your dreams abruptly turn into plans. Everything is possible to the graying mid-lifer. For example, one of my sisters hit 40 awhile back (think generously) and I haven’t said anything to anyone yet, but there are definitely some signs of aging showing up. I was debating helping her up the stairs, when she pops out her newest ambition: learn percussion. What!? Those old hands have seen their best days changing diapers and bandaging toddler knees, haven’t they? Those lovely wrinkles are showing up around the knuckles as a timely warning to slow them down, maybe wrap them gently around a cup of warm prune juice? But instead the old heart sings of a new day, and those old hands are all about beating themselves up on the bongos. There is nothing in this picture that makes sense to me, except that I have passed through the valley of the shadow of adolescence and lived to remember.
I think Hj and I are the only safe ones at this point, and I’m sure I have never thought of myself as the safe one in my family before.
PS. It doesn’t make as good a story, but I actually think my siblings are some of the most honorable people alive and I applaud and respect their daring dreams plans!