Growing Up

Several years ago, I was in NC visiting my parents for a couple of weeks and decided to go to Target for a few things. While cruising through the book aisle, I ran into an a girl I'd been best friends with in middle school. We lost touch in high school so I was unaware that she was married and had a young daughter. Though I was already married, I didn't yet have kids and seeing her there with her sweet little girl threw me for a loop. We chatted about life and caught up a bit but I kept repeating the same stupid phrase to her over and over.

"Celia, you're a mommy! I just can't believe you are a mommy, Celia!"

I've looked back at that day and blushed, as I am now, at how Forest Gump I must have sounded.

It wasn't that I couldn't see her with kids someday, it's just that standing there with her daughter in Target, she seemed so grown up. And I didn't feel like we could be that grown up yet.

I've reconnected recently with several old friends from high school via Myspace and Facebook. One of the girls (I have a hard time referring to people my age as women sometimes) was in a one of my elective classes. She was a couple of years behind me but we had a lot of fun chatting and being silly in class. Again, I lost touch with her after high school (I'm seeing a trend...I'm not good at keeping in touch) so I had no idea what she's been up to all these years later.

As it turns out, she has two kids. Her son has autism and she has become this amazing advocate for autism awareness and research. She also married an Air Force guy and is living in our home town stationed at the base there. Lately, I have been reading her blog and looking at the pictures of rallies and conferences she attends on behalf of her sweet boy and I'm overwhelmed with emotion.

I'm so proud of her, first of all. She has taken on autism head on and is fighting for her son. I love that. But, I'm also just amazed at how much time changes us.

It never occurred to me thirteen years ago when we were sitting in the back of a classroom giggling and having fun that someday, we'd be moms facing battles on behalf of our children. The battles I face for my own are not the same as hers but they are battles even so.

I have been thinking all day about those middle school and high school days with girls I loved so dearly and trying to imagine them facing things like children with autism, losing children, dying parents and all of the other things that life throws at us. It's hard to imagine those girls fighting for anything other than free lunch periods and later curfew. But, it's not the same girls. I'm not the same girl. We've all grown up and despite everything else, we are all now a part of the same team. We are all women who will do anything for our children. Women who will fight for something bigger than ourselves. We are all moms.

I wish I could go back and whisper in the ears of my girls from high school and tell them to hold their chin up a little higher. Tell them that they are so much stronger than they seem right now. That one day, they will be someone's champion. I'd tell them to enjoy those giggles but not to lose touch because these girls sitting in the back of the class passing notes with you will be amazing women that you won't want to miss out on knowing.

Growing up is bittersweet.