I fought the steering wheel against the brazen wind. Gusts bent trees nearly into praying postures. My skin stung with the remnants of the breeze from the wide open plain of the soccer pitch. My phone had died, leaving me to navigate from memory our way back to the hotel, which was somewhere off I-40 East.
Beside me, the soccer player jabbered. She had played a tough set of games, and came out of the second one after getting brained with a cleat. Mama bear reared up seeking justice—and an ice pack.
I gripped the wheel and fought through my foggy head, retracing our route. She said, “I don’t know how to do what I want to do. I mean. I’m not sure how to decide. I sometimes do things I don’t want to do. And then I don’t do things I want to do.”
We talked about the Apostle Paul, while I veered into lanes, hoping I could trust my memory. She said, “I just want to be a kid. I’m only 12. But I want to be serious about soccer. And school.”
I found one of the sixteen junctions I had traveled and offered a silent prayer of thanks.
She said, “I don’t want to be cool if it is the kind of cool that’s mean. I know a lot of people like that.”
We talked about what cool means, and how growing up is hard. And how there is always a new growing up to do. She worried she was running out of time. She said, “I only have five more years.”
I told her then she’ll have four years to figure out college stuff. Then a decade to figure out her 20s. Then her 30s and then her 40s.
“It’s scary.” She said, with gravity and truth.
“Yeah. It’s scary. It’s also fun. For all the stuff I’ve waded through, I’d not change a thing.” I told her.
Do my words fall on thorny ground? Is she a fertile field? Or are my words the stuff the birds can’t carry away?
I was distracted. I was worried. I was trying to listen, to really hear what she was saying. I heard wisdom in her mouth. I heard grace in her heart. I felt strength in the grasp of her fingers in mine, as we had reached the hotel. She said, “Will you hold my hand?”
As long as she’ll let me.