Austin, who I began babysitting when he was 6 months old and continued daily for the next five years, graduated from high school this year. Throughout my eighth grade year until I graduated high school, I could be found at Austin’s house from 4:00 – 8:30 every weekday night. His mom ran a business out of their home and his dad worked second shift; hence the need for me.
Little did I know back then what an impact this would have on my life. At his graduation party I was surrounded by the familiar place and people of my past. This place that was often the refuge in the midst of the latest teenage drama. The people who accepted me as another member of their family. Comfort should have washed over me.
But I felt overwhelmed.
Things had changed. Where there once was a trampoline, there now stood an outdoor living area. Where the swing set once stood, there now was a fire pit. Where Austin and I used to spin and spin and spin and then flop down on our backs in the grassy grass and stretch our imaginations to find cloud pictures, there stood a pole barn.
It was all decked out in the colors of my high school past — red and blue. It was filled to the brim with food, keepsakes, and photos. I began to page through the photo album — and proved to my husband just how much our own little guy looks like Austin did. I began to remember stories from when Austin was our son’s age — stories that once again reminded me how much alike the two really are.
I began to feel a little strange. I no longer wanted to eat — even though I’ve listened for months about the menu and the smell of barbecue was delicious and I couldn’t wait to taste Stacy’s homemade cheesecake. My stomach began to knot.
As I talked to Austin’s family — those who were my extended family when I was his age — I was overwhelmed by the changes. The little cousins who I babysat were sitting across from serious girlfriends. Others were half way through their college careers. The aunts and uncles and grandparents had all changed too. Andy came back with his plate and we sat down.
Soaking it all in, I could hardly believe how quickly a few years pass. Then Austin came in, saw me and hugged me. A little-brother-to-a-big-sister kind of hug. I couldn’t say all the things I wanted to say — my voice was shaky and my knees were wobbly. I didn’t even know I would feel these emotions, these emotions that I wasn’t even sure what they were. Thankfully with Austin, a hug was enough . . . and maybe even said it all.
Then I saw Stacy, his mom and one of my best friends — a big sister of sorts. She taught me to drive, worked miraculous wonders with my hair and make up, and was the matron of honor in my wedding. When I saw her my heart tugged. I went to talk to her, and again, I couldn’t find the words.
I was overwhelmed by the emotions of it all. We hurried on our way and once in the safety of our car, the tears started rolling. Andy gave me a look that said, You’re completely odd, but I’m not going to say anything and a pat on the knee. And the only coherent thought I had was: I have to write this. I have to get to the heart of these crazy-keep-me-from-eating-cheesecake emotions.
I think what I’ve realized is the power of investing in someone’s life over the course of years. Although the bulk of my investment was in Austin’s early years, I am still strongly tied to him and his family. (I think the tears that have come back right now are an indication of this.) When you love someone for years and years; pray for someone over the course of those years; and hope for the best for them in the years to come; it’s a bit overwhelming to watch them begin the journey as a young adult. I am overwhelmed — and out of this emotion comes a desire to support Austin in the years to come, because I love him.
Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.