September 12, 2017

On Growing Up

Yesterday was my parents’ 25th wedding anniversary. Truthfully, I wasn’t thinking much about the sentiment of the day. I was exhausted from a seminar and a showing, and the last thing I wanted to do was sit in an hour of traffic to get home. But yesterday wasn’t about me, and I decided I would put myself aside and celebrate with my parents.

My mom had asked Courtney to take family photos at our house, and by 6 o’clock, we were all standing in the golden light in our blue and white outfits. Courtney told us how to pose, and as we smiled, I started to feel a little bit melancholy. My little brothers, Sam (21) and Jack (16), looked incredibly grown-up and handsome. They both towered over me, and to see them next to each other was something surreal.

My mom and dad took a few photos alone, too. They held hands and Courtney snapped away. These are two of the most beautiful people I know — inside and out. In my dad’s card to my mom, he wrote that he has adored being her best friend and brother-in-Christ. This is gloriously true. My parents spend as much time together as they can, building one another up in the gospel. It is the best example of marriage I’ve ever seen.

We went to Mon Ami Gabi some time later for oysters, steak-frites, very crisp white wine and a seafood tower. At the table, my parents recollected stories: their elopement, when the kids were born, the night I fell down the stairs and more. As we laughed and remembered, my heart swelled in my chest, more and more until I felt like I was on the verge of tears. Everyone is older now — my parents, my brothers, me. Our family of five will never be a young family of five again. I’ll never be in high school again, coming home to drop my backpack on the floor and watch Gilmore Girls. We’ll never fight over silly kid things again, like the rules of trading Halloween candy or who gets to hold my mom’s hand in the car.

Things are different, and time has passed. New characters and plot lines have entered our lives, and though I am joyous over certain changes, the idea of growing up makes me feel wistful for my childhood. And what’s more, I am fearful of the future. I know that life on Earth is very temporary, and I’ve also watched friends lose their parents over the past few years — one of them, just two days ago. I cannot stop thinking about what I would do if that happened to us anytime soon.

After dinner, my brothers walked ahead to the car and I stood outside the restaurant to say goodbye to my parents. That was when the waterworks came. All at once, I was sobbing. “I’m not upset,” I blubbered through my tears. “I don’t know why I’m crying.” But I was, and I couldn’t stop. The very last thing I wanted to do was get back in my car, alone, and drive back to the city. I wanted to go home to my Hinsdale house, put on my favorite sweatshirt (a 20+-year-old crewneck with my baby face on it) and stay there forever.

I wish I could remember exactly what my dad said at that moment. It was something along the lines of this: “Melanie, when you feel this way, think about eternal life. Think about how we’re going to be together forever, in Heaven, no matter what happens here.”

My mom walked me to my car, hugged me tightly, and we made a plan to do something later in the week. I sat in the car for a few extra minutes, trying to calm down and redirect my thoughts. An hour and a half later, I was back at my place, peacefully tucked in bed.

This is what I know: Jesus Christ lives in me, He lives in my mom, He lives in my dad, He lives in Sam, He lives in Jack. We’ve endured our share of trials, but we have also been gifted a beautiful life together. Change will continue to come. We’ll keep growing up. But no matter what, I do know that we are united in one unchanging spirit. That is pretty much the best truth there is.