“If youth only knew, if age only could.” – Henry Estienne
When I was young, living under my parent’s roof and abiding (for the most part) by their rules – I used to fantasized about what life would be like when I grew up. Who didn’t? But, as I’m sure is the case for most people, my childhood musings about adulthood were quite different from its reality.
Believe it or not, I wasn’t necessarily planning to have children. I assumed I’d have a child, someday in the way distant future, but I certainly couldn’t “picture” it. Seriously. I baby-sat for one family when I was an eighth grader, and that pretty much snuffed out any motherly yearnings I had. After a few hotel nanny gigs in college, the flame of motherhood flickered out once again. Today I have four children and for a long time, I was perpetually on a quest for just one more.
I grew up in small beach town, so I dreamed of a life in a big city. I was certain that I’d live in a high rise apartment. I remember once walking on the beach in Fort Lauderdale with my friend Barbara, when I was visiting her on vacation, and she pointed to one of the tall condominiums that lined the coast. She commented that I’d probably live there one day and I readily agreed. I did eventually live in the cities of Fort Lauderdale, New Orleans, San Juan, Baltimore and Atlanta, but never in a high rise. Today I technically live in a suburb of a city, but it’s far enough out that it really feels like the country to me. We’re nestled among the trees, surrounded by neighborhood horses and far away from traffic and smog. I love it. Never in a million years did I think this would be my Shangri-La.
Oh, the time I wasted. I hadn’t even begun to comprehend the intricacies of time back then. As a teen, time was a monkey on my back, nothing could ever get here or happen fast enough. Time is still hard on me. Rather than feel impatience with time, I’m now scared of it. There’s never enough when I need it. It seems as though I am always racing against time, when ironically all I want is for it to stop, or at the very least slow down.
When I was younger, I thought my parents would always be a part of my life. I didn’t consider their mortality, so it never occurred to me to envision a future without them. I honestly thought they’d both be at my college graduation, my wedding and that they’d be grandparents. My mom missed out on all that and my dad only held the title of Grandpa for two years. I certainly never thought I’d outlive my little brother. That one still hurts.
I never thought I’d feel the weight of the world on my shoulders, despite the fact that most of what I worry about is beyond my control. I would have laughed in your face if you warned me that I’d worry about getting cancer, global warming, terrorists or my kids being shot in school. I didn’t understand grief. I’d never heard of autism.
I always believed that I’d meet “the one.” Yes, I did, despite the fact that I didn’t have a boyfriend until I was nineteen. I was a romantic – still am. I sure as hell kissed a lot of frogs who weren’t part of the plan before I met my guy, but that’s okay. Some of those frogs were cute and fun. Now, the fact that I think kissing a bunch of boys was fun, is something that would have horrified the young Allison. I was a good girl.
Aging was something I never contemplated beyond twenty-one. Never, not once, did I consider what, where or who’d be in the twenty-first century. Isn’t that weird? Being in my forties, I’m all too aware of how fast the years are going by and I do often try to picture myself as an octogenarian grandmother dancing at my granddaughter’s wedding. Is this because of wisdom, wishful thinking, or “putting it out there in the universe?” I do not know.
When I was a young, I believed in happy endings. I loved books. I wrote long letters. I loved the beach and sunsets. I loved Rod Stewart and Jon Bon Jovi. I was okay spending time alone. I had fears about the future. This is all still true. What’s more interesting to me is the change in heart I’ve had about the things I didn’t like. I hated coffee, Brussel sprouts, country music, olives, stinky cheeses, beets, going to bed early and traveling long distances by car. All are now staples in my life.
I thought I knew what love was when I was child. I didn’t have a clue. Not a clue. I didn’t comprehend what it meant to share your life with someone. I didn’t understand the enormity of a mother’s love. I didn’t recognize the beauty in the little things. I didn’t grasp the value of good health. I didn’t realize the importance of saying, “I love you.” I didn’t appreciate how many gifts that this journey of life offers. But I do now.
This post is a link-up up with Mama Kat’s World’s Greatest Writing Workshop. I chose prompt number one: Describe what you thought living on your own would be like after you graduated (from high school).