Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Grateful for Youth

I’m grateful for all the youth in our lives these days. Not my youth, of course (which packed up and headed for warmer territory many years ago), but the youth of our many young friends, my sons, and their friends who all color our lives and bring a vibrancy that an aging couple can’t help but joyfully appreciate.

We just spent the long Easter weekend in Chattanooga with three of our sons, one of their roommates, our daughter-in-law, and her former college roommate. The conversations and laughter and all that energy and creative thinking inspired us and made us forget that one of us needs a set of hearing aids and the other one….well, never mind.
Our weekend began with seven hours in the car with one of our  25-year old twins, seven hours heading away from Chicago to watch the leaves slowly unfold before our eyes, ushering in springtime in the course of our travel time while we processed life and felt privileged to be invited into our son’s thoughts, questions, and celebrations. As the leaves budded on the trees and the road rose and fell until finally rising once and for all into the mountains of Tennessee, we listened to a young person’s perspective and private thoughts.
 “I have a few books on tape. Wanna put one in?” I asked several hours into our drive.
“I’d rather just talk, if that’s all right,” he answered. Of course it’s all right.  
In Tennessee, we met up with the rest of the crowd and then all of my son Kyle’s friends. Over the course of the weekend, we were welcomed into homes for delicious dinners prepared by hospitable young women, offered to us with generous plates of engaging conversations.  In Chattanooga, we enjoyed several restaurant meals with the gang, laughing uproariously over jokes and silliness, like the moment my husband mistakenly took a stranger in a coffee shop to be our son. While we all waited for our coffee orders, Bill sidled up to this young man leaning against the wall who wore the same white t-shirt and dark hair as our twins. Shoulder up against shoulder, Bill began to sing “Resurrection Fern” by Iron and Wine way too close to the young man:

And we'll undress beside the ashes of the fire
Our tender bellies are wound around in baling wire
All the more a pair of underwater pearls
Than the oak tree and its resurrection fern

Could there be a more awkward set of lyrics to whisper into the ears of a stranger?  One by one, the members of our group realized Bill’s error. Taylor’s roommate watched it unfold from his place at the counter. I stood on the stranger’s other side and thought Bill had his arm around the young man. We both noticed about the same time that this young man didn’t belong in our family and Bill scooted away, apologizing profusely. Jamison suggested our entire family gather round and put all of our arms around the stranger who by now wore a panicky little stricken smile on his face. Sometime during our hysterical laughter, he slipped away with his coffee.  
 We laugh a lot with the young people in our lives. And laughing makes me feel so rich…and so young.
The laughter also visits when we are with youthful friends in the Chicago area who join us for nights by our fireplace or nights at our favorite Thai restaurant, or for brunch, or a chat by my desk at work, or in the living room of friends where our small group meets. They remind us that aging doesn’t need to mean segregation from different generations. We still learn from all these young people – and maybe at times they even learn a little from us.

Our weekend ended much too quickly. Exhausted but contented, we headed back to the Chicago area, watching the leaves fold back into  their buds, allowing a sense of winter to return for a moment as we arrived back home to our leaf-less trees, but thankful for the chance to watch spring unfold before us once again.    


Stephanie Rische said...

I'm slow in catching up on your blog, but this story of your husband singing to a stranger he thought was your son is hilarious! It's going to be family lore in no time. Thanks for the smile and the way you brought the scene to life.

Linda MacKillop said...

Thank you, Stephanie! Yes, the story has already been told and retold!