Has it really been 10 years?
A whole decade?
I can hardly believe that so much time has passed since that day, but then I think of my kids, all growing so fast and my oldest going on 7.
It must really have been 10 years ago that we all sat around our table at Macaroni Grill and Raini and I drew out our perfect plans for the future in crayon. 10 years since we wandered around the river bank and took pictures of the way it was back then and listened to the wind weave its way through the trees. 10 years since we sang, “Happy Birthday” to a young man who would only know one more birthday.
I was driving home from the grocery store a couple of weeks ago, all the kids with Daddy at home, I was alone and I decided to put in an old cd from the case that’s been gathering dust under the seat in my car.
The first one I grabbed I hardly looked at as I shoved it in.
It had been… I dunno, years since the last time I’d played that cd. I couldn’t even remember what songs were on it. The first few songs reminded me of singing like a diva in the privacy of my bedroom my senior year of high school. And once for an unsuspecting audience. Oy.
Then this one song came on. I remember the first time I heard it in the theater as the last scenes of Titanic fell out of sight on the screen.
“Love can touch us one time, and last for a lifetime, and never let go ’till we’re gone.”, Celine sang to us. At that moment in time, the power of that song was in the intensity of feelings involved with letting go of my first boyfriend the summer before senior year. You know, the first love, the first loss. It was the only kind of loss I could relate to, having been so nicely sheltered from many things in my younger years.
The pain of my first breakup was beginning to fade, and I was thinking maybe it was time to move on. But that song brought some of that back into focus and made it difficult to really open up to new friendships and possibilities.
About 6 weeks after I’d seen the movie the first time, I went with a group of friends to see it again. One of the guys in that group I actually had a teensy bit of a crush on.
We went to a tiny little theater closer to where the majority of those friends lived, and first we stopped at the apartment of the girl who lived there in town. It was an unlikely group. How the whole thing came about I am really not sure! We met at the marketplace where she worked, grabbed some sort of fizzy health food type soda drink, then headed across the road to her apartment.
I’d thought she still lived with her parents, since I had been there once for a hilarious overnight game of Murder in the Dark and since she was younger than me and I was no where near ready to move out of the nest and spread my wings.
But then, there I was, standing in her apartment in the upstairs of one of the little downtown brick buildings. The kitchen was tiny, but had everything needed to cook any kind of meal you wanted. Her living room was a bump with a lamp and a futon, but it was a nice little place all in all. She stood in her kitchen, laughing easily with the three boys surrounding her, confident in her strengths and her weaknesses. She held down her own job and paid her own bills, managed her own household.
I couldn't think of anything to say. I hardly knew how to talk to boys, even the ones I’d known all my life. I was so awkward and shy. Compared to her, I was a childish country bumpkin.
I stood there in the doorway, out of place.
Then he looked up at me, and smiled, and soon we were walking out the door and down the street to the theater. I didn’t make enough conversation, and soon Carl fell into step beside me and tried to draw me into some sort of sociable small talk. I looked at his face, open, kind, his smile, and I couldn’t help but smile back.
We’d spent some time together in our church group over the past few months, but there was still an awkward unspoken conversation that we hadn't had. I was flattered by the fact that he had chosen to walk beside me.
I stole a sideways glance and blushed furiously. Thank goodness it was dark.
We filed into the theater: Jeremy, then Erika, with John on her other side. Then me, and finally, Carl.
Hmmm. I had him all to myself!
But John monopolized most of my conversation, anyway. Carl hadn’t seen the movie before, and both of them were shocked and dismayed when I couldn't help but start crying towards the end.
"What? Why? Really, why are you crying? Are you okay?", They took turns asking.
After the movie Jeremy said his goodbyes and walked back to his car. John walked Erika to her apartment, and Carl walked me to my car. We didn’t say much. He still wanted to know if I was going to be okay, and I left with the sadness of the movie still getting me down.
With a sigh I drove away, and soon the tears resumed their course down my face.
Now I can't help but wonder if I would have stayed longer there in the parking lot with him. If I would have just let the shyness slip away and talk of anything and everything, if I would have sat up all night with him, laughing and talking if I could have just known then how silly the awkwardness really was.
I mean, really. Is there any good in regretting things like being shy, feeling awkward around boys when I was a teenager, or hoping a guy would notice me but please, oh, please don't talk to me? Not really. But looking back now it seems so foolish to worry so much about stumbling over my words or losing my train of thought as soon as I'd feel myself start to blush.
At the same time, I know how much potential trouble that shyness kept me out of while spending 4 years in a public high school.
I wouldn't go back and change the person that I was then. I wouldn't take the innocence away early in order to get the knowledge of what is worth appreciating and what hang-ups are unimportant in the long run.
Sometime a month or two after that group outing Carl and I had the ultimately awkward talk where he 'let me down gently' so to speak. Apparently I was more of a "sister-friend" than a "girl-friend". And that was okay. Our family started going more often to a smaller church closer to us for several reasons, and for a couple of years I didn't see very much of Carl.
But a couple of years can make a lot of difference. In college I lost a lot of awkwardness, gained a bit of hide, and thankfully learned to speak to guys without a constant level of redness usually reserved for fire extinguishers and stop signs. We had a good group of friends, hung out a lot with the crew, bombing around the mountains of northern California, and made some pretty amazing memories that year. We were friends. No longer playmates of childhood, no longer trapped in the teenage confusion, but securely friends in the life-long "known-you-since-we-were-knee-high-to-a-grasshopper" sense.
Soon after Titanic was released in theaters, "My Heart Will Go On" became a popular song to play on the radio. Mixes popped up with quotes from the movie scattered through it, and I heard it a lot over the next year. It never once made me think of anyone that first boyfriend I was missing at the time I first saw the movie.
Until that night a couple of weeks ago. The words no longer held on to the memory of my first love. Maybe because now I know that he wasn’t the love of my life. Maybe because now I’ve known loss and pain that go far deeper than the pain I felt then in losing my first boyfriend. Because now I know what those words really mean.
“You’re here, there’s nothing I fear,
And I know that my heart will go on,
We’ll stay forever this way,
You are safe in my heart and,
My heart will go on and on.”
You are safe in my heart, Carl.
More importantly, you are safe in the heart of One who cares infinitely more.
He remembers every detail of your smile, your laugh, your friendships, your struggles and your triumphs. He remembers every little thing that brought you joy, that made you laugh, that made your heart soar. He doesn't even need a song to remind Him of those precious moments of your life.
He remembers the rest, too. And for those things He died.
And He rose again.
See you in heaven, my friend.