Because when our children grow up we can no longer strap them into car seats, which means they’re free to roam the earth as they please, and which sometimes means they down 5 shots of vodka with their new college roommates even though they promised themselves that they’d take it slow on account of the altitude and all.
We tell stories because we struggle to find the words when the apple of our eye calls the next morning, voice craggy and full of rocks to let you know that no, she will not be helping you in your effort to find furniture for her room today because “Mama I’m very sorry but if I get up I’m going to throw up.”
We tell stories because we want to come down hard, we want to get all “You need to learn how to take care of yourself…bla bla bla, ” except that just as those words are charging out of your mouth you remember who you were when you were a college student in this very town 35 years ago.
The night you lay in your freshman bed so high you were certain the aliens were coming for you, how you closed your eyes and lay your arms by your side so you’d be ready to beam up in one piece.
The day you ate too many mushrooms and had to have your best friend Lisa walk the streets of Boulder with you for hours, reminding you what was good about your life because you had forgotten.
The Friday afternoon beer party where you ended up picking up one boy, then a second boy on the way home.
All the strangers you woke up to – including the one who was trying on your bra and panties that rainy Sunday morning.
The friendships that only had cocaine in common – Who was that girl – Joanne? She seemed quiet and studious and New Englandy, but she was stoned every minute of every day.
The ring your Mother gave you when you were 21 saying, “I never thought you’d live this long.”
How the whole thing progressed like this for years and years. How you still have to be so careful because you know exactly what it feels like to want to leave the conversation you’re having and drift above it painlessly, to want to get high.
Our stories lay tracks – breadcrumbs. They help us remember how we got from there to here – the path we took, the choices we made. How we still make choices. Daily.
We pray that if we can tell our story right, if we can make sense of the whole journey, the apple of our eye will get to skip the part where she drinks too much, loses her keys, her phone, goes home with the wrong boy.
We tell stories so we can tell her about the hike we took this morning, how the hills above her school were littered with purple and yellow wildflowers. “These hills are right here, right out your door,” you tell her. “ You can come up here anytime.” But you never walked these hills in college. In fact, as you walk, you realize that you’ve barely ever taken a hike alone in nature in your whole life because you were always afraid that something might jump out and get you, but here you are walking, alone, along a trail. The biggest boogy man was always you.
There are so many paths in Boulder. Even your daughter can find one, if you let her.