When I Grow Up to Be

i282600889607958069._szw1280h1280_I was finally feeling frisky again this past Saturday. My high energy level has definitely returned. In between undergoing major surgery last year and having to wear an air cast for many weeks I had grown heavy and lethargic and perhaps a bit depressed. I’ve been walking everyday of late and going farther and faster with each iteration. I’ll never run again because I have arthritis in both of my knees which flares up time and again but I can do some fairly brisk stepping about. 

I was feeling particularly joyful and a bit nostalgic on Saturday because my grandson was scheduled to graduate that evening. I donned my hiking shoes, slapped my sunglasses over my eyes, adjusted my earpieces, and tuned my iPhone to a collection of best of the Beach Boys. I was off and ready to take on the sidewalks around my neighborhood while music from my past played in my ears. So many memories flooded into my head that I was transported back to a time when I was the one who was graduating.

I remembered a day when I went to Galveston with several of my best friends to celebrate that we had finally finished high school. I can’t remember the exact makeup of the group but I think that I was there with Claudia Dean, Barbara Martin, Linda Derks, Susan McKenna, Eileen Brochtrup, and Linda Caldwell. I may be totally wrong about who was actually part of the group because it was so long ago but those are some of the girls with whom I shared many fun times.

It’s always been a kind of tradition in Houston for graduates to head for the beach either just before or just after graduation. We chose a day very much like this past Saturday morning when the sun was shining and the water was just perfect. Someone in our party suggested that we would get better suntans if we slathered ourselves with baby oil and I was more than eager to rid myself of the pasty color of my skin. I borrowed her bottle and piled the sticky goo on every exposed area of my body.

Most of the girls headed out into the water but Claudia and I stayed back for a time. We were reminiscing about how much fun we had in school and eagerly looking forward to college. The beach was fairly empty on that occasion because some of the younger children were still in school for a few days. Suddenly two cars drove up and parked right next to where we were lying on a big blanket sunning ourselves. Both of the vehicles were obviously brand new. One was a Corvette Stingray with a University of Texas sticker on the back window and the other was a maroon Mustang with a Texas A&M University decal.

Two good looking young men emerged from each of the autos. They stood talking with each other while glancing at me and Claudia. Before long they had inched their way over to where we were and began conversing. Like us they had just graduated. The cars were gifts from their parents. They made a bit more small talk about their plans for college and then I uncharacteristically took the lead. In a flirtatious voice I told them how much I would enjoy riding in one of their flashy automobiles. They took the bait and invited each of us to join them for a spin around town. Before I could even catch my breath the University of Texas guy was escorting Claudia into the Corvette and the future Aggie was waiting patiently for me to enter his Mustang. I shocked everyone by insisting that there was no way that I was getting into a car with someone that I had met only minutes before and I warned Claudia that she really needed to get out and rejoin me on the beach. I was too late. The young man in the driver’s seat whose name I didn’t even know revved the engine and sped off. The owner of the Mustang shrugged his shoulders, jumped into his own car and followed.

When the other girls with whom we had come saw what was happening they rushed to where Claudia and I had been sitting. They were a bit annoyed with me for allowing our friend to go with two people that we didn’t know. All we could do at that point was hope that they would bring Claudia back. We began our wait and it became far longer than we had anticipated. We sat in the sun for what seemed like hours beginning to worry about how we would explain what had happened to our parents who had expected us to return home much earlier. At long last we saw the two distinctive cars approaching once again. We heaved a sigh of relief when we saw that Claudia was just fine. We didn’t even chastise her because in a way we were all a bit jealous of her adventure. She had enjoyed a nice lunch with her new found friend and he had driven her all over the island, sometimes at high speeds. We all had a good laugh and packed up for home. On the drive home she couldn’t stop talking about how much fun her day had been and I sat quietly wondering why I had been so afraid to join her.

That evening I realized that I had perhaps the worst sunburn of my life. By morning there were huge blisters on my arms and my back. My face was beet red and every inch of my skin hurt. I was so miserable that I could hardly move. Claudia called me later that day and said that the Corvette kid had invited her to go on a date and the Mustang boy wanted to make it a double. We were to meet later that week at her house to make plans. I was quite excited because the guy with the maroon car was the better looking of the two and besides, he was going to be an Aggie. This was my second chance! It never occurred to me that my sunburn might alter my appearance as much as it did.

By the end of the week the blisters were scabbing over and the skin on my face was shedding like a snake. My burnt flesh even smelled funny. I couldn’t have looked or felt worse if I had tried. I went to Claudia’s home nonetheless hoping that my potential date wouldn’t notice. Of course he was horrified when he saw me and even mentioned that he didn’t remember me looking the way I presently did. He hemmed and hawed and ultimately said that he had suddenly realized that he was supposed to help his dad with a project on the proposed date night. I can’t say that I blamed him. I could hardly stand to look at myself in the mirror. I suppose that I appeared to some kind of freak at that moment. My biggest regret is that I never got to ride in that car. That’s all I ever really wanted.

I was sad at the time. Like most young girls I found myself worrying and fretting that I would never meet my Prince Charming but of course I did. It was worth waiting for my Mike to come along. I can’t imagine my life without him. All of the stars had to converge in just the right positions at each juncture of my existence to bring me to the glorious moment of Saturday when I was able to consider all of my days and smile, especially when I thought of my grandson.

In a way so much of my history unfolded as I listened to those Beach Boy songs one after another on my walk. I remembered what it was like to be young and filled with dreams. I thought of meeting Mike and listening to that same music as we went out on dates and eventually plotted our future together. Forty nine years ago I had wondered how my story would unfold and now I knew the glory of it. I was happy for Andrew and for the many adventures that lie ahead for him. I walked with a spring in my step and marveled at just how perfectly things ultimately turned out. On top of everything else I had learned that I preferred my own colorless complexion to first degree burns. I’m quite comfortable in my own skin today and I wouldn’t change a thing. There is a beauty in growing older and wiser but the journey to that point is part of the fun and I look forward to watching my grandson as he begins to choose his own direction to follow.

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