I can’t believe we’ve managed to keep you alive for 16 years. I believed I was a great mom until you were born, realizing I just had two somewhat predictable children before you – your older sister eager to impress and your older brother eager for peace. You were born the unpredictable third child, eager to explore. Searching for something, you rolled over days after you were born and then took your first steps at nine months, way before I was ready to baby proof the house. Of course, it was you and your endless curiosities demanding the house be babyproofed more thoroughly than any of your siblings. It’s uncanny how you always find something to unravel, the one missing puzzle piece finishing the puzzle, or the tiny spot of chaos capturing your undivided attention. Or maybe it is chaos always finds you. There has to be some explanation for why you’ve had more ER visits than the rest of us put together – including a broken heel bone, the time you got your tongue tangled in your braces, and the rock that alluded your surgeon and has now been embedded in your knee for more than a decade.
Either way, bathing my young children always felt like a chore until you were born. With you bath time was the one time you were content to be contained. It not only pleased your senses to be immersed in warm sudsy water, but there were endless curiosities available in a tub full of bottles and bubbles. And while your brother and sister required kid gloves when I would scrub them clean and cried every time I rinsed the soap out of their hair, you would giggle with delight as you shoved your own head under the faucet, eyes wide open, showing your older siblings how it’s done.
And since you love water, we had to be attentive near swimming pools as there was nothing other than our arms to contain you. Once you jumped straight in without a thought before we had the chance to set down our pool bags let alone inflate your arm floaties. Thankfully I heard the splash and turned around in time to notice your wispy blonde hair go under. Daddy jumped in to save you, phone in his pocket and shoes and shirt still in place. Despite your near drowning mishap, you were back in the water as soon as we secured your water wings and released you from our vigilant grip.
It’s not that you were ever purposefully naughty or rebellious, and you’ve never taken any pleasure in creating chaos or causing problems for others. You actually love to help others solve their own problems and puzzles, and you thrive on structure and predictability. For years your bedtime routine included you insisting on a play by play plan for the next day. Once you started real school, the classroom routines and clear boundaries our home lacked helped you thrive and succeed in new ways. That was until time to start writing. Unlike your siblings and many peers, your handwriting was always legible, your spelling was excellent, size and spacing of letters and even basic punctuation rules made sense to your young mind. The problem was no matter how many times we told you to start on the left side of the paper, you would start on the right and your words and sentences were a mirror image of what they should be. I guess it should not have surprised us when you finally decided you were mostly a lefty, unless of course you were playing sports. But even then you were still running to third base every time you hit the ball at the beginning of your second t-ball season. It continues to amaze us the way you see and do with ease all kinds of things no one else can see or do at all, while at the same time you get turned around in familiar places or jump in full speed ahead without floaties into unfamiliar places.
Somehow, despite your unusual visual perceptions, your insatiable determination and curiosity ensure you usually figure things out on your own- even if your solutions sometimes take a little longer or look a little different than everyone else. Still, your teenage years have been terrifying as we’ve watched you figure all kinds of things out in your own way and even occasionally had to jump in and save you. This year, I did not look forward to your birthday knowing we would no longer be able to put off the inevitable driver’s license you have been anticipating for years. I put it off as long as I could, wanting you to have as much time to mature and practice as possible before setting you free to operate a large motor vehicle. Especially considering your continued mild left-right confusion and the fact chaos still tends to find you even when you are doing your best to stay in the lines and follow the rules.
For example, you are the only new driver who would notice a wallet flying out the passenger window of the car in front of you as the light was turning green at the busy service road intersection of Hwy 59 and Hwy 90. And only you would be brave (or rather reckless and impulsive) enough to put your car in park and insist your friend jump out into traffic and bring you the mysterious wallet. And only you would, for the next 24 hours, set your mind solely to solving the mystery of the flying wallet.
By the time you shared the story of the mysterious wallet with us at dinner, you had already spent hours scouring social media in search of Davion from Wisconsin. You were determined to find him, explaining how if nothing else, he would need his license to fly home. After your parent’s harsh rebuke and warning against ever again stopping the car in the middle of a busy intersection, we joined in on brainstorming all the possible reasons Davion was in Texas to begin with. We could not imagine why anyone would choose scorching humid Houston for vacationing in the summer, so we decided this was a stop on his way to some interesting final destination. Perhaps on the way Davion’s car was stolen forcing thieves to dispose of the true owner’s identification. Or maybe the wallet was stolen, and you caught the criminals in the act of covering their tracks. Seems likely Davion had enemies, and almost certainly some criminal activity was involved.
More determined than ever to reunite Davion and his wallet, you used his student ID to locate contact information for his school in Wisconsin, promptly calling the following morning. Without any involvement on my part, you gave the school your phone number to share with Davion. Texts were eventually exchanged and a few hours later Davion and his mom were at the house to pick up the wallet. It is hard to know who was more thankful, Davion for having his wallet back, or you for having satiated your curiosity, reuniting the flying wallet with its owner.
Turns out Davion was here in Texas, visiting family, including his autistic cousin who unbeknownst to him had, without any ill intent, thrown his wallet out the car window. No further crimes to solve or mysteries to unfold, just a happy ending to one of those crazy stories you always find yourself right in the middle of.
A story I will forever treasure as a timely reminder as I brace myself for the rest of your teen years.
A reminder your relentless curiosity, thoughtfulness, determination, and compassion are truly gifts to a world full of mystery, pain, and brokenness. I love the way you notice people, take risks, make sacrifices, and put other’s needs before your own. This world truly needs a lot more Hallies!
But while I love that Davion got his wallet back, I also hate how you put your own life and the life of your friend at risk. This is a good reminder to steward our gifts with wisdom and grace, recognizing our greatest strengths can become weaknesses or get us into messes if we are not careful. When not redeemed by discipline and love, relentless determination or curiosity can become reckless obsession, compassion and sacrifice can make you vulnerable to being used or taken advantage of, and risk taking sometimes results in getting in over your head only to realize a little too late you are drowning. The reality is we are complex beings, and even our best intentions, our greatest work, and most treasured relationships are a mixed bag full of sacrifice, strength, and love mingled with selfishness, weakness, and need.
And if we can’t always be trusted to know our own hearts and intentions, we must be careful assuming the intentions of anyone else. It is true sometimes wolves dress in sheep’s clothing and generous givers like you must be especially careful not to be taken advantage of. But Davion and his cousin also remind me how easy it is to mistake human limitations for ill will. We are prone to misinterpret our perceptions of a story, assign rejection or failure to ourselves and others, and we automatically assume the worst of people – even the people who love us most. None of us could have fathomed the person who threw the wallet out the window was someone who loved Davion and the very reason he was in Houston to begin with; just like you never meant to cause panic or destroy Dad’s phone when you jumped in the pool without your floaties, and you never meant to put you or your friend’s lives at risk when retrieving the flying wallet.
There is always more to a story than what we know, and more often than not criminal or malicious intent, our failure, or other’s rejection of us are not the most likely culprits of whatever puzzle we are trying to solve or situation we are trying to make sense of. To be human is to have limited perceptions, knowledge, experiences, and resources. And we also all have different physical, mental, and emotional capacities and competencies limiting us in different ways. We sometimes unintentionally hurt people we care about or put them in danger because of those human limitations. And sometimes people who love us unintentionally hurt us as well. While it is human to assume the worst in others, love demands we strive to assume the best – bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things.
Here’s to a couple more years of navigating the tumultuous teen age years together as mother and daughter. I promise to try a little harder not to automatically assume some criminal activity every time you ask to borrow the car, but maybe you could promise to avoid any chaos beckoning to you in the middle of busy intersections. Or maybe it would help things if you would smile the next time I try to take your picture or give you a hug! But no matter what chaotic situation you find yourself in next, or what my mood may be at the current moment, please always assume I am on your side, knowing that I love you fiercely and forever!