When my cousin Tim enjoyed his own roaring 20s, living the DINK* life, he bought a brand new black Camaro. A sensible purchase? Probably not. But at what other time, other than late into retirement, can one enjoy such treats? Somehow Tim knew to grasp onto the momentary lack of full responsibility.
My 16-year-old self took full advantage of his situation. He made the drive home one Saturday in May to drop off the newly washed and waxed set of wheels. He parked in the barn and showed me how to work the 6-disc changer (which resided in the trunk. Hellloooo again, 1990s!) which I later forgot and listened to Collective Soul on repeat. Then he gave me the mandatory and expected Lecture. The car goes fast, he told me. Be careful. Then he said something unexpected: At the end of the day, it’s just a hunk of metal.
You are more important than a car.
Of course, this goes without saying within the context of being careful and avoiding accidents. Yet hidden underneath, and now that I’m a tad older and wiser myself, I see the beauty in wanting good things for the people we care about.
I can’t imagine the trust he put into my 16-year-old self, let alone my 17-year-old date, whom he never met. His actions told me that believed in the goodness of people and the worthiness of his little cousin, enough to hand over the keys.
This weekend a friend found herself in unfortunate circumstances without a car. We were laying low so we drove JJ’s vehicle down so she could get to an engagement. Even when you fully trust someone, in the back of your mind you always do the “what would happen if” dance, and we were no different. Yet like my cousin, I believed a person to be more valuable. His words echoed in my ears: At the end of the day, it’s just a hunk of metal.
I’m not sure I would’ve had the guts to follow through had the same trust been placed in me. It would be easy to come up with a reason why we couldn’t extend the offer. Family or not, I want to live like I believe that people are always most important. But it’s hard to live your values.
One of the only things that speaks louder than fear is love, and I was fortunate to be loved with a set of keys early in life, which made it possible for me to love in the same way.
*Dual Income, No Kids
My newsfeed erupted in photos capturing one of the most joyous occasions of my family’s shared history. I have to ignore Facebook altogether to avoid crumbling because it’s painful to be reminded over and over how I wasn’t there.
I didn’t smell the dust and beer and sweat of a day’s worth of celebration. I didn’t hear the jokes and laughter anticipating the big race. I didn’t pet Limelight Beach to give him a pep talk or a congratulatory hug. I didn’t see the horse take off out of the gate. I didn’t get a jab in the ribs when he never let up. No one hugged me in celebration and my cheeks didn’t burn from smiling in the hours following the winner’s circle picture.
Pile this atop the growing list of the ways in which I’m limited by my present reality. Living far from family with a gaggle of young children results in multiple occasions of sitting out the opportunities presented.
“It was just a horse race,” we can try to convince ourselves. (Yet all of the harness racing junkies will vomit in their mouth a little when I refer to the Jug as “just a race.”) Sporting event or not, the family experienced together. It will go in the books as something akin to Cruise 2000. My face will be absent in the pictures because I got the van fixed instead. Not by choice, but a result of circumstance.
Which is where it gets tricky. It was our choice, or so I hear, to have all these kids and move away and attempt to do this unassisted by kin. And while we mostly chose the size of our family and the way in which we spend our days, aware our life won’t share all similarities as others, we didn’t get any fine print to examine.
We anticipated having to rethink the way in which we vacation. We knew Christmas would be consistently small. It’s always been clear we would have to make hard decisions in regard to how we spend our time, specifically around extra-cirricular involvement by our kids. It was obvious money would always be in short supply. We weighed those decisions and found them worthy trades of the added personalities to our little homestead.
I love the little buggers, but nothing prepared me for the heartache of missing life’s moments like Thursday because we couldn’t find an all-day sitter. I wouldn’t trade our little big family for anything, but that doesn’t mean I can easily brush aside my frustrations. Joys outweigh hardships, but the challenges can still be heavy.
Similar to how it’s hard to say I’m pregnant, it’s difficult to share my feelings of frustration – I feel I don’t have a right to complain about the circumstances of life which I chose. Any parent is free to express feelings about challenges of kids, but the number of kids you have increases, so does the times you hear “well, you chose that” when you say these things out loud. As a result, I feel I must be silent about what keeps me up at night.
(Except for this blog, where I get to voice what ails me and put words to the feelings I didn’t fully realize until I start typing.)
I recently attended a gathering where this was read and I had a chance to reflect upon it. I hope it lights something in your soul as it did mine. (Originally published here).
What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water would.
So building fires
to the spaces in between
as much as to the wood.
When we are able to build
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and the absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible.
We only need to lay a log
lightly from time to time.
simply because the space is there,
in which the flame
that knows just how it wants to burn
can find its way.