I clean our addition in preparation for Cade's eleventh-birthday sleepover and come across a VHS tape labeled "Cade's Baptism." I need to take a break to feed Charleigh, anyway, so I climb onto Cade's bed and pop the tape into his little, dinosaur tv. Cade is about seven months old at the time of the footage. His dad and I were members of a Methodist church, and the baptism is of the infant variety. The event unfolds, on screen, just as I remember, and I find myself fairly unaffected in the watching, although I do marvel for the zillionth time at how much Charleigh looks like Baby Cade.
The baptism footage ends, and I start climbing out of bed to rewind the tape when--to my complete and utter surprise--Cade's first birthday party starts playing on the dinosaur tv. I have no memory of anyone filming it and didn't know (obviously) I possessed the footage, but I watch, transfixed, for about an hour. I look into the heart of the first of four houses I've bought in a little under twelve years: a red, brick Cape Cod on Fifth Street in Shenandoah, Virginia. Although Jim's and my log cabin runs a close second, I have never loved a house more than I loved the brick Cape Cod, with its five bedrooms, built-in bookcase around living-room fireplace, oak everything, full basement/garage, and back deck and second-floor (outdoor) balcony with views of the Massanutten ski runs. Still, as I watch, I don't experience nostalgia...even for my baby son now ten years older.
In fact, I am most affected in watching myself. I was twenty-six, and my thirty-six-year-old eyes think I looked great: interesting, because I remember, distinctly, feeling so fat that day. I don't look at all fat. I look young, happy...seem sweet and thankful. I find myself appreciating my twenty-six-year-old self in ways I didn't, when I was twenty-six. For the first time, I forgive myself for who I was and wasn't ten years ago.
I want to slip into the rooms of the brick Cape Cod and encourage my twenty-six-year-old self. I want to say: in six months, you will leave this house, this town, you love and move to Powhatan, Virginia. Your husband? You already know (and you are about to understand in whole new ways), but he's all wrong for you. It's going to get worse before it gets better, but it will never get as bad as it might, and--in just a little over six years (Hang in there!)--you will reconnect with the right guy: the one you dated in 1994...the one you haven't seen since you graduated from Maryville College almost five years ago. (You've been an idiot for a long time, but it's ok.) You'll earn your Master's degree from JMU and teach before staying at home with two baby girls. (I know, right? Two baby girls!) It will take awhile, but you'll make friends in Powhatan...real friends...friends who will believe in you, build you up, and make you better. I promise you: Cade will be just fine. And here's the most important thing: you'll come to know Jesus in a much deeper way, and He will grow you into someone who can hardly recognize the person you are right now.
And then I want to put my hands on the shoulders of my twenty-six-year-old self, look deep into my own eyes, and say: Girl? You aren't fat. In fact, you won't be able to wear these jeans forever, so enjoy them while you can...