Taylor is in the eighth grade this year. I’ve had a couple of weeks to get used to the idea that she’s an eighth-grader, but I still can’t fathom the fact that she’s less than a year away from her first day of high school.
Taylor’s friends are awesome, and they’ve done wonderful, amazing things for her even in the face of all that has changed about her since most of them met her at the beginning of the third grade at their small private school. Just last month, an angel named Charlotte orchestrated a surprise birthday party for my little sister. The girls invite her to their tennis matches and basketball games. They all continue to make a place for her at their lunch table, even though she can’t always participate in their gab-fests. And during the seventh grade dance in the spring, three boys – and all of the girls – danced with her, relegating my husband and me (the chaperones) to wallflower status.
Great acts of kindness bring a smile to my little sister’s face, but they don’t make her better. She still has Batten disease, and the reality is that every new memory is made on borrowed time. I want to see Taylor go to her high school prom. I want to see her graduate. I want to see her live out all of her hopes and dreams. She deserves nothing less.
Thinking too far ahead gets me into trouble, though, so for now, I’m forced to settle for good todays and tomorrows.
I’m (slowly) beginning the hateful process of cleaning my home office. Tonight, I found a column I wrote for the high school newspaper near the end of my senior year, in the spring of 2000. After three years on the staff, I got the privilege of partaking in the “senior goodbye” tradition – an open-ended letter to my fellow students.
Here I am, a high school senior anxiously awaiting graduation. It seems as if only yesterday I was a nervous, introverted freshman setting foot on campus for the very first time. A lot has changed since then. A glance at the past reveals a wealth of precious memories; senior year, in particular, becomes a whirlwind of college applications, the infamous spring break week and who took whom to prom. Final soccer games. Last dances. First loves. Last laughs. Shared tears. The precious moments are what make me who I am.
What lies beyond June 1 is uncharted territory. We will all set out together, and alone, to find the rest of our lives. Some of us will keep in touch. Others will drift apart. This is the way life is. Every day life changes. But our memories will remain. People are kind of like stained glass windows. We are made up of so many different colored pieces of glass; yet if one piece was removed, the beauty of the window would be forever lost. These pieces are our memories. I wouldn’t trade them for the world.
So in three weeks I will be a high school graduate. Here come the mixed emotions everyone before me swore I would have. I’m ready to get out of high school like everyone else. I’m anxious for the freedom of summer and the vast college campus awaiting me. At the same time all I want to do is give everyone a hug. Gone are all the grudges I have ever held, all the conflicts I have ever had. None of it matters anymore. We are beginning a new chapter now. Life is short, but sweet. Enjoy it while you still can. As for the thank yous, I haven’t compiled my list yet. Everyone I have ever known has in some way served to make my life better. To my friends, enemies, teachers, coaches, teammates, family and fellow graduates, I will remember you long after the things I learned in class have been forgotten. You have all touched my life in a special way. Regardless of what the future holds for me, you will be a part of me forever.
Taylor was just 20 months old when I wrote that column. At the time, she loved to dance around the house with my stuffed UNC ram, which played the fight song with a squeeze of its hoof. She called me “Rar Rar.” She had Batten disease, but nobody knew it.
I didn’t know much as a high school senior, but looking back now, I managed to get a couple of things right:
- Moments – and relationships – define us.
- Tomorrow is uncharted territory.
- Life is short – but very, very sweet.
To many, many more tomorrows for my sister.