You never can tell where your choices in life are going to lead you. Some of them have a lasting impact on your life, some you wish you could forget, and some help you look back with a different perspective and be glad, proud even, of a choice that you made.
I never was too much of a partier in high school or college. Went to class, worked at a daycare and subsequently a clothing store. My “fun” on weeknights/weekdays revolved around my babysitting schedule. I had a couple of families that were regulars, a few occasionals, some I only babysat once. Then I had my boys.
I met N and B when they were 2 1/2 and 6 weeks old and I was 16. Love at first sight definitely applies here. Their big blue eyes, nearly constant effervescent smiles, and N’s little mullet of curls all won me over. N was wild, a lot of the teachers warned me, “Watch out for that one!” And they were totally right. Whether I “watched out” or not, I totally fell head over heels for both boys.
From the first time I babysat, we were kindred souls. We played ball, hid from pirates, read books, sang “Animal Fair” at least 62 times before N would go to sleep, I cheered for them when they could ride bikes without training wheels, cried for hours after N graduated the PreK class I worked in, I taught them movie lines from some of the classics (nothing is more adorable than little kid repeating, “Carnies, circus folk, smells like cabbage, small hands!” while holding up his teeny tiny hands) and they taught me that loving them was a timeless experience of growth and friendship that just doesn’t end.
N decided that he should have a girlfriend at the ripe old age of 3 and that naturally, I was it. That comes under the category of an offer that is too good to be refused. So I picked him up one Saturday and we went to the Tigger Movie, which we watched approximately 10 minutes of and didn’t have enough action for him, so we went over to Joseph Beth to feed the ducks. I’m sure we had some existential conversations there (as most conversations with 3 year olds are pretty existential,) but all I remember is the day was overcast and we had a blast. One of those times that you know you’re living a memory. And every time I take my kids to feed the ducks, or even drive past it, I think of that day.
Some people blossom in college. They widen their range of experiences, meet tons of new people, try new things, etc. And maybe I did too, just in a different way. I passed all of my classes, completed projects, maintained full time hours working, occasionally went to a party or went dancing. But mostly, the new people I met were under four feet tall and were into making mud pies and watching cartoons. Looking back now, I can appreciate the friendship that I had with N and B (and their awesome parents) that was really my first opportunity of choosing family. Because most of us are born into a family, and the lucky ones of us get to pick additions to that family. And that’s so much better than the typical college experience, that I have no regrets about choosing “Door Number 2.”
Through the years I have watched my boys grow. Closely, at first, their journey from a baby/toddler into active little boys while I babysat them several times a month, then young men when they were ring bearers for my wedding, and once my husband and I entertained them for a weekend at our new home. Before I knew it, N and B were too old for babysitters anymore, and I had my own babies and lived in a different town. It’s such a strange experience now, seeing them as great young men and still being able to see the babies and little boys in their faces. Those loving, sweet little boys who cheered, “MISS JULIE!” the instant I walked up to the door to watch them for the evening. The two little balls of energy that were all boy and who made my life so much richer for knowing them.
Last night I was privileged to see N graduate high school. Seeing him, so confident and grown up but still seeing that sweet little boy I fed the ducks with, back when I was “HIS Miss Julie,” was such an emotional experience. I’m so proud. I’m a little sad. I can still see him and B on bikes without training wheels, beaming as they zipped around their driveway showing off. Getting photos in Christmas cards of them in baseball and football uniforms, turning more into handsome young men every year. And now, going off to college for N, and being a junior in high school for B. I was teary driving home toward the sunset and contrails blazing across the sky, listening to Def Leppard’s “Bringing on the Heartbreak” and thinking of what a blessing it was, being a part of these boys life. What an honor it is to have this love and knowledge of how amazing these two kids–young men, are.
My youngest daughter is turning 3 today, older than both B and N when I first met them. It’s going to go by so very fast. I am so lucky to have been there the moment N got his diploma in hand, give him a hug in his cap and gown, and think to myself, “Watch out for this one, world!”