Thursday, August 5, 2010

Where Seventeen Went (Revisited)

It seems that August is the big month for transition and change and for kids to take another step toward growing up—going to a new grade, a new school, a new college, a new town.

Since Nathan will be a senior in college this year and Sarah is headed to High School, the whole “growing up thing” seems extra poignant to me right now. I wrote this piece a year ago and just happened to run across it again this week; it really struck a chord with me and I wanted to share it again.

Where Seventeen Went
August 4, 2009

While we were eating lunch with Steve's parents last Sunday, I looked around the table and remembered that I had first sat on those same dining room chairs when I was just seventeen years old. And now, amazingly enough, my own children have grown into teenagers and are sitting there in the same chairs, at the same table.

Steve and I are about the same age now that his parents were when I first met them as a teenager. And now Nathan is bringing his girl friend to that very table, except that Steve and I are the parents, instead of the starry-eyed youngsters. And Steve's parents are the grandparents of the children I hadn't even thought about when I first set foot in that dining room thirty years ago.

At some point when I wasn't even looking, the generations regenerated. And when they did, they took me along.

Truthfully? I'm not sure that I'm quite ready for all this generational shifting. I'm not sure that I'm ready to acknowledge the fact that I'm no longer the seventeen-year old, the new kid at the table, the daughter-in-law-to-be, the young girl on the brink of the rest of her life.

I'm not sure that I'm overly thrilled with the fact that I somehow morphed from seventeen into forty-seven and no one even told me it was happening. No one told me that I would go to sleep a few times, cook a few meals, change a few diapers, travel a few miles, and then wake up a few mornings later to discover that thirty years had passed.

Seventeen-year old kids should be warned about that.

Seventeen-year olds should be told, "Don't take Thursday afternoons for granted. Or Tuesday mornings. Don't wish for the day when you'll be eighteen. Or twenty-one. Be happy you're seventeen because one day you'll turn a page on the calendar and you'll be forty-seven and you'll wonder
where seventeen went.

You'll wonder where the wrinkles came from. And you'll wonder how you survived the heartache that life brought with it. You'll question why you didn't always treasure the joys that were birthed out of the heartaches. You will be well aware of the fact that you made a few mistakes and learned a few lessons as you glance in the mirror and see a face that is no longer young. And you will ask, “Why didn't I know all this at seventeen?”

Seventeen doesn't last forever. But neither does forty-seven. I know that the next time I blink, I'll be seventy-seven and looking back thirty years at today. The generations will have once again shifted and I will be the gray-headed lady at the dinner table whom everyone is calling, "Grandma." I'll remember the days when I was forty-seven, and when I was seventeen and I will be ever so glad for those lovely days.

And yet I wouldn't ever choose to go back, because seventy-seven will be a good age. Just like forty-seven is a good age. Just like seventeen was a good age.

In fact, you know what? Every age is a good age. Every age reminds me that I'm still alive, and I still have gifts to give, adventures to experience, pain to bear, joys to treasure.

I am very much aware that the days I'm living now will soon fade and that the calendar leaves will soon fall. I know that in some nostalgic moment down the road, I will look back at this sweetest of all generations when I had Nathan and Sarah's laughter filling the house. I'll think of how I was so aware that the winds of time were blowing harder and stronger and that one day they would blow those children right out my front door and take them to meet the loves of their lives and they would have children of their own and put their feet under their own tables in their own houses.

But happily, beloved children who go away also come back to visit. And the day will come when Nathan and Sarah will bring their own children home; they will sit at our table and look around and say, "I remember when I was seventeen." They will feel sad about it. They will feel happy about it. And then they will count their blessings and hug their mamma and go on living.

But you can't see all that at seventeen. And that's how it should be. One of the things that age carries with it is those kinds of special secrets, imparted only to those who make the journey through a whole lot of years. Nathan and Sarah will arrive at forty-seven and they'll find that it's really not so bad hanging out in the Land of The Middle Aged. And my hope is that by the time they get there, I will have paved a straight path for them, set a good example and helped to make their journey meaningful.

They will discover that in the ongoing reshaping of their lives, each generation will come to be inhabited by new faces, new lives, and new stories. And in the midst of the shifting of the generations, in one of their houses, at one of their tables, someone will turn seventeen--someone who will be on the brink of the rest of her life.

And a generation's journey will begin again.


In closing, here’s a precious child who will be fifteen years old in two weeks. Can seventeen be far behind?


8 Had Something To Say (Just click here!):

Sheri Hawley said...

Oh Becky! I can hardly wait to read your book. It will be a best seller, I know!

Anonymous said...

Best blog post ever.

-Kim Waggoner

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite posts. Maybe it speaks so much to me because, well I am not close middle aged yet, I was 19 when you wrote that essay, and it just made me think so much.

And no I can't believe Sarah almost is 15. How the time flies. I remember when I found your site I was a year older than Sarah will be in August. So much have changed in my life since and I do wonder how where I am, when I am middle aged.

Becky, even I do not comment very often, I am a faihful readers of yours and you and your family is a blessing to me.

Oh that made me wonder something.... how old are people who reads your post? I am the only 20 years old here?


MaryH said...

That is one of my favorite posts - but seriously, 15!!!! How can that be but THANK GOD it is!

Anonymous said...

Sniffle...sniffle...okay, crying now...same as when I read the original posting! Because I SO identify! Mine's 21 and I'm did we get here? How Did I become a Nonna so young? Where's my tissue?!

Guerrina in Ledyard

Sarah, am loving every year of your life!

Jenna said...

Wow- Becky, your writing is incredible. You write with heart, soul, and passion and truly have a God given gift. I urge you to submit this story for publication (perhaps to a family or women's magazine)- and also to consider writing a book. You have a lot of wisdom and perspective that could bless others through your words (just as your blog is already such a blessing to so many).
Also, Trine- I just turned 30 last week. I anticipated it would be quite traumatic- in fact I'd even considered not celebrating or acknowledging it! However I'm glad I did since I was amazed to discover that being 30 is actually pretty fun- and I have a whole new era of life just waiting to be discovered ahead of me!

Jenna Hoff

Anonymous said...

I LOVE this! Having a 19 yr old son and 15 year old daughter does stir these thoughts up in me too.

I agree about your book. I want an autographed copy for sure! Jill-FL

PS-If anyone wants to pray for this little girl, I hope this is ok to link. I just started reading the blog about 2 weeks ago. I do not know them personally.

Kelly said...

I also loved this post! I am 33 and I married at 19 and all I ever wanted to do was have babies! So at 22 we had our first and they are now 11, almost 9 and 6 1/2 yrs old. I can't believe how quickly those baby years went by that I wanted so desperately! The last 11 yrs were a blink which just tells me that the next 11 yrs will be my next blink! Going so fast....but I sure do love it! I really try to live for each day! Thanks for this post Becky and all your posts! I read you everyday!