“Are you sure?” I asked, being careful to avoid her eyes.
“Yea, I’m sure. But I go to see the doctor on Friday,” she said.
“So how do you feel about it?” I asked.
“Oh, I’m good,” she said.
I could feel it in her voice–a genuine gladness. We moved on to talk about other things. I followed her lead. Finally, she returned to her “situation.”
“I told the father,” she said.
“And what did he say?”
“Oh, he’s glad.”
I caught my tongue before I said it. “Have you lost your good mind?” I wanted to ask. “Don’t you know in two years he will be a hostile stranger to you? Not because he didn’t want to handle the challenge, but because he couldn’t. He will blame his failing on you. Raising at baby at your age is more than difficult. A new life is demanding and greedy and selfish and loving all at the same time. What about college? What were you thinking?”
But I swallowed my rage. I held back all the familiar admonishments. I did not rattle off data about newborns, and teen age mothers, and poverty, and hardship, and test scores, and incarceration, and bone-deep disappointments. I tried to be upbeat and helpful because I knew that was what she needed.
The bell signalling the end of second lunch rang. The young lady disappeared in the rush of incoming students. She always had a way of slipping in and out of doors. I have known her for two years, taught her for one. She is a dreamer, though I am sure the description might surprise her. She believes in her ability to subdue life’s pitfalls–something she has had to do many times in her life. ” My mother had me early. She is like a sister to me,” she once said. “And my father and I are just learning to get along.”
I understand her joy. A baby is coming, and, with it, a warm beginning. She later shared, “Everybody needs somebody who’s gonna love you forever.” And she’s right. I haven’t the heart to argue. She says she knows all about the statistics, but she whispered, “if I let that bother me, I’d have quit a long time ago.” There is a wisdom about her, but still I wonder if she really knows what sacrifices lay ahead.
She, and the other young ladies I have known in similar sorts, are not stupid children. They knew about the risks. But they also considered the reward. Theirs seems to be a reflective version of planned parenthood. I fear too many near adulthood and panic. They do not yet feel fully grown. I remember. Tomorrow seems remote and unattainable sometimes. Here is a adult something at last that they can do now. A child will deliver purpose, and schedules, and all the things good mothers do. So maybe they decide to jumpstart their adult lives early, and once they reach that decision, there is really nothing left to wish them but good things.
I hope this young lady finds that spot where everything is perfect, even if it is temporary. I told a fine, young man once, “Only the dreamer can kill the dream.” Five years ago, that young man revealed to me a lifelong ambition. He wanted more than his “good government job.” He wanted to spin records from his coming-up days. He wanted to DJ like he did in college when every dream was free. On Friday–after planning, and putting on hold, and doubting, and revamping, and wondering again– he hosted his first club night at this great place on H Street. As I watched him work the room (it was a good crowd), I recalled our conversations so many nights before. I don’t know if I truly believed what I said back then about dreams and dreamers, but I know I wanted to.
It is the same with this young lady. I want her life to be lush and bountiful. I make a note to tell her about a time when I was burdened–and sang my songs anyway. Sometimes things work out just the way naysayers predict, or an unexpected rain washes your bridge away. Sometimes your plans hit a boulder, and the only real choice is to sit a while, gather your strength, sharpen your faith, and move on.
But sometimes life surprises you in a delightful way. Everything aligns perfectly, and all you have to do is grab hold of the ladder extended–and climb. I must remember to tell her what I know about community college and daycare. I must find a way to show her that, while life can frequently fail to grant wishes, and blessings are not always what they seem–sometimes things really do work out just the way you imagined.
I just wish she had waited a little longer to find out.