Half a Lifetime Ago

I don't know what it is about my birthday, but it puts me in a retrospective mood.  Last night at dinner, Sam commented that he thinks it's weird that kids born in 1990 can now legally drink.  Yes.  That is weird.  And it made me feel old.  Then I realized I am getting older, and so I thought about where I was half of my life ago.

My first thought - Seinfeld (arguably my favorite show of all time) has officially been off the air for half of my lifetime.  Now that blows my mind.

I know that I'm relatively young, and certainly too young to be having memory troubles, and yet, I had to resort to a scrapbook in my 257 degree attic to get the memories flowing.  I still have no idea what half of the things in there are all about, but I remember a few things, and they made me smile - mostly.

Seriously - why did I save this?

According to the back of it, it qualified me as a member of the "Traced Name Club".  No recollection of that.  At all.

And this?

 I vaguely remember this being a "funny" thing one of our teachers said.  No idea why.

But this?  I saved this as evidence from my half-life-ago to prove to posterity that I am and always have been a super nerd.

Apparently, memory problems plagued me even in my earliest days because, as I flipped through the scrapbook I found that one of the comments on my Farewell to 5th Grade paper on which each of our classmates wrote a memory about us, my 5th grade teacher quipped, "I will miss how you always forgot what you were going to say, your sweet smile, and your constant generosity. ~Miss Ryan"  So, yeah, I've always been a bit of an airhead, I guess.

Regardless, it was a fun exercise to think back to my 14-year-old self.

On August 22, 1997, I was about to start high school.  I had come off of a summer of volunteering at the VA nursing home at the hospital complex over which my dad served as the maintenance engineer.  I got over 50 hours in that summer, doing things like refilling water pitchers, wheeling patients to the canteen to make purchases, doing crafts, and just chatting.  I met one of JFK's body guards during my stint there.  He was a particularly grumpy in-patient who grumbled every time I brought him his Ensure to drink between breakfast and lunch.  Encounters like that are the kind that make you almost famous by association.  I may as well have been present at the assassination.  

By the time my birthday rolled around that year, I'd already endured a couple of weeks of early morning field hockey practices, during which time I either demonstrated enough skill or was lucky enough to have joined the team when there was an unusually low number of upperclassmen and found myself one of two freshman on the varsity roster.  I don't have a record of how we fared that season, but if memory serves me correctly, we couldn't have won more than two games, and our coach rounded out the season with a bona fide nervous breakdown.

About a month into the school year, there was an electrical fire at the high school rendering the entire building unfit for use.  The resulting solution was for the middle school to share their facilities with the high school.  Half days for everyone.  It was a sophisticated operation, and one that we freshman were less than thrilled about.  We'd just gotten out of that school.  We sure didn't want to go back (even if our entire school day was then about 4 hours long instead of 7.5).  Just in time for the homecoming game and dance, JHS re-opened.

I remember the things that plagued me back then.  The biggest troubles in my life were "so major" like whether to be in band or play sports.  In my mind, they were mutually exclusive.  You simply couldn't do both.  As a freshman, I was in band for two semesters.  Betcha if you didn't know me back then (or even if you did), you wouldn't have guessed that I was a flute player.  During the first semester of freshman band, I apparently caught the eye of our director and was invited to play in a small group of wind instruments aptly dubbed "Chamber Winds".  The nine of us had the privilege of performing for the school, at a church concert, and at our school's Blue Ribbon Awards banquet for distinguished Maryland schools (back when JHS was still a pretty awesome school). 

In the spring, I played lacrosse.  Basically, I was copying whatever my sister did in high school.  I didn't even  buy my own equipment - just used her old stuff.  This time I was the lone freshman on the varsity team, and I'm pretty sure I didn't belong there.  One of my most vivid memories is when the coach would pair up an old guy with a young guy to practice passing.  One of the "old guys", in particular, would always pick me as her partner just so she could throw the ball as hard as she could right at my face.  I suppose she thought she was doing me a favor by forcing me to catch the ball.  I suppose she actually was.  But she didn't have to have that scowl on her face while she beamed it at me.

I didn't know, at the age of fourteen, what adversity or troubles even looked like.  I hadn't lost a loved one that was close to me.  Teen pregnancy, drugs, alcohol, the heartbreak of a first love - these were all things that I only read about in young adult novels or the newspaper and things with which I certainly didn't have any first hand experience.  My life experiences were limited to those of my small, metro-Baltimore suburb - population: 14,700.  My friends were coasting through life in a similar fashion.  Being 14 was, in a word, easy - simple. 

A lot would change in my life in the next fourteen years.  (Don't worry, I won't start singing Tim McGraw here.)  That's just what happens in this crazy ride.  Cumulatively, it's what has made me "me" at 28 years old - a former full-time engineer turned housewife of three, soon-to-be four, kids in a suburb of central Georgia, a member of an amazing Christian church, with a circle of friends that can't be beat.  But I still forget what I was about to say all of the time. 

The good news is that I finally look my age.  You know, as opposed to the 12 years old I looked when I got married.

Or the 8 year old boy I looked like when I was a freshman in high school.


Pretty sure I'm thankful to have aged.

 Thank you, God, for all of my blessings, big and small.  Old and new.  Including those wrinkles, hard times, and these precious children that have made me look every bit of twenty-eight.  (About time.)



amy said...

Incidentally, my oldest child was born in 1990, hence, is old enough to drink.

But what I really want to express is how very glad I am of your birthday, because I'm so tickled to know you! Love you so much, my precious friend, and am so grateful for your presence in my life. <3

Debbie said...

Happy Birthday!! I loved reading this. I clicked those sports pictures to make them bigger and try to find you in the group. I'm pretty sure I did. BTW, I played the flute too. Not well... but I played it.

When I see your wedding picture, it's really hard for me to remember the two of you looking that young. You are still a beautiful couple. In fact, I personally think even more so now.

At 28, I only had one child. You will have FOUR! I'm envious of you about that. I hope the next 14 years are as wonderful as the last ones and the next three kids as precious as the first three.

Jennie said...

That's a REALLY good joke, Mrs. Debbie. ;)

Sharon said...

Jennie - You're such a doll!

Happiest Birthday! Hope you did something very special for it - or rather, that someone did something very special FOR YOU!

I loved reading about your life - what fun! I appreciate a good nerd story...(It's OK - I was exactly the same way). I also have some pictures of me that look like a dude. My dad thought that very short hair was "sporty" - uh, yeah - sporty like a Russian bodybuilder maybe.

AND...I am seriously freaked out that I am literally twice your age (PLUS a year) - how on earth did that happen?

Wishing you the best, dear friend - and knowing that God will bring you many blessings in this coming year.

Love you.

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