Let me take you on a journey back in time. Back before I was happily married with 2.2 children, a white picket fence and the “happily ever after”. Back to the sweltering summer of 1997. July was blistering hot, our house felt like an oven, and I was up all night with the most adorable, but colicky baby. I was 16.
My grade 12 year loomed ahead and all I could think about was how was I going to put this precious baby in daycare in two short months, and how was I going to keep his little and big cries silent as to not disrupt my household further?
I had never been a “daddy’s girl”, but the tension between my dad and I was palpable. Although not my biological father, he was the only dad I knew, having stepped into that role when he married my mom at my tender age of three. I knew that my pregnancy was a black mark on our family. Our family who had been a large part of the DNA of the small farming community we lived in over generations. I knew that being a grandfather at 37 must have been humiliating. I knew that my choices had impacted my entire family without their consent; but I made them anyway. I had endured nine months of silence; if you don’t talk about the elephant in the room its like its not there right? Well, now the elephant had arrived and I was naive enough to believe that the 9 lb, big brown eyed, dimpled sweetie I held in my arms would change everything. Oh he did. Just not in the way, or in the timing I had imagined.
I was a lot of things when I was 16. I was a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a friend, a girlfriend and a high school student. Adding mommy to my resume changed the nature of every other role I held; roles I was still trying to just understand how to fill, as I wrestled with defining who I was, along side every other teen my age. What I didn’t understand, was that my dad was going through a very similar process.
The first year was the hardest. I struggled to maintain the high average at school that I was used to achieving and still expected of myself, and that frankly was a large part of my identity up until that point. My academic achievement was the one thing I could control in a world that felt like I couldn’t control much. I struggled to figure out how to be a friend that was either a) invited to parties and couldn’t attend, or b) was able to go and couldn’t fit into a party crowd with the 2am feedings in the back of her mind.
Looking back, my girlfriends were absolute rock-stars. They had no experience being a friend to a friend who was suddenly a teenager and an adult simultaneously . They were just kids themselves, and yet somehow they just knew what I needed.
One evening after Austin was in bed, my girlfriend Candace picked me up in “Barney”, her brand new, shiny, purple Sunfire. I had no idea where we were going, or why, and I was puzzled when we arrived at our high school, and many more of our friends were there to meet us. Then I was blindfolded and slowly lowered into a seat. More than a little nervous already, I was terrified when the chair began to move erratically! I was taken for a wild ride and squeals of terror from me, and hysterical laughter from them, filled that deserted parking lot.
I will never forget that night or the stroller they wheeled me around in. My kind hearted friend Michelle had organized it, a dozen or more friends had chipped in on it, and Candace delivered me to it. It was the most beautiful stroller you have ever seen. I am still not sure how high school students, still receiving allowance or working part time jobs at Zellers, afforded it. It was a Cadillac. I had many lovely hand-me-downs, but this stroller was new, it was beautiful, and it had been bought with such love.
This event is the perfect example of how they cared for me. Unconventionally, a little goofy and abundantly generous.
They adored Austin and always offered to bring him along where it was appropriate; dinners, shopping trips, movie nights. They never made me feel like I wasn’t welcome to join them, or feel bad if I had to bail early. I still marvel at the maturity these young girls had, and just how well they loved me through a very hard year.
It is amazing to look back and see how God took care of us. Motherhood though hard can be so redeeming. The love and support I needed so desperately, were provided to me from so many unsuspecting people and places. It is a gift to reflect and see the goodness of humanity, the blessings of simple but profound gestures, and to see the bigger picture that was unfolding inn my life, day by day, diaper by diaper. Like sparklers light up the dark, my friends made me forget all the hardships and made Austin and I feel so very well loved.