When I am an old lady, and my mother is an even older lady, we have a plan. Our plan is to sit on the front porch in our cotton dresses and big sun hats, drinking Tom Collins & lemonade, and watching the grandbabies play in the yard. Recently, I went to see my mom in Oklahoma. We got up early, sat on the front porch, and drank coffee together in the sunshine (practicing for when we trade the coffee for spiked lemonade). She said, “Well, kid, you’re going to be thirty this year. You know when you’re young and you think that when you’re older, everything will be better? Is growing up what you thought it would be? Is life better?”
Everything is better. I am going to own up front the flood of emotion I feel when writing this. The flood of gratitude, strength, survival, happiness, and humility I feel. “Everything is better now”, I said. “Do you remember what it was like growing up? Dirt poor, sleeping in a broken recliner under a ceiling propped up by a 2×4, playing volleyball with a rolled up pair of socks, and skipping dinner so that we could go to a movie. You going through a horrible time that made us both desperate and miserable, even hopeless at times.” She just stared at me. We joke about living in poverty a lot, but rarely talk seriously about that time and all of its bleakness and desperation.
Look at my mom and I. We are half the country away from each other, but other than that, we are so happy. We are happier than we have ever been. We are safe. We have stability. We are employed. We are educated. We are both in love. We are healthy. We no longer live in a culture of poverty.
Last year, I read The Last Lecture. In this book, the author, Randy Pausch, talks about remembering and living your childhood dreams. He writes at one point, “Whatever my accomplishments, all of the things I loved were rooted in the dreams and goals I had as a child…and the ways I had managed to fulfill almost all of them. My uniqueness, I realized, came in the specifics of all the dreams – from incredibly meaningful to decidedly quirky – that defined my forty-six years of life.” Standing in our home after putting a beautiful bedroom together and placing the final perfect decorative pillow on our bed, I looked at Evan. “This is one of my wildest dreams come true”, I said. “You need to get some wilder dreams,” he laughed. I stopped for a minute and said, with a huge smile on my face, “If you could see where I grew up, you would think this was pretty fucking wild!” His face broke out in a huge grin that I love, and he agreed.
For the first time in my life, I drive a safe, new car to and from a fulfilling job at an amazing university. I go home every night to a safe home, with two dogs, and a partner I can’t wait to see. My mom facetimes me on our iPhones and I have the privilege of seeing her face even though we are half the country apart. I go for runs on safe streets in my brightly colored Nike kicks, study Italian, read, cuddle down in bed with the world’s most awesome duvet (and decorative pillow), have a glass of wine, and watch Top Gear.
I don’t have a Ph.D in Italian or Educational Research. I haven’t been to all seven continents. I haven’t figured out a more effective way to finance developing countries, end oppression, cure AIDS, or stop violence against women. Basically, I still have a lot to do with this life.
This fall and winter I have the opportunity to travel to France, Italy, and potentially Greece. I live a life filled with love and kindness. Everyday, I work at keeping peace and compassion internally and externally. I am living some of my wildest and most memorable childhood dreams every day and I have many more left to life. How about you? What were your childhood dreams? How are you living them? I would love to hear about it.