Sweet Sixteen.

This past weekend, my cousin Tommy(Tarheel, doctor, tri-athlete, runner, traveler, friend), who is currently living in Portland with his wife Madeleine(Duke grad(eh), doctor, tri-athlete, chocolate lover, traveler, friend) sent me this photo with the caption “It lives!”The 1984 Volkswagen Rabbit convertible is the car that both Tommy and I drove when we turned sixteen, and ironically, I mention this car briefly on our About Us page.  Before the two of us drove it, however, it was first my Dad’s, then my brother’s.  Then it was Tommy’s turn, and then, finally, and ultimately, my turn.   And what you see above is, I think, an exact replica of the burnt orange gem in which we all tooled around town. The clutch went out several months into my stint, sadly, bringing its tenure as our trusty family car to an all-too-short end.

It’s timely that Tommy sent this photo, because I recently read a beautiful post by Rebecca Woolf of Girlsgonechild.net  about our inner age.  In the post, Rebecca writes that her mother always told her that we all have an age inside of us, that “some are born with little old men in our souls or little old women or infants or toddlers.”  Her inner age is 13.  Her mother’s is 18.

As soon as I read the post, I immediately thought…I’m 16.

I’ve since ruminated on why my initial gut reaction was this age, because in truth, I’d like to say I’m every age, that every year I’m me, I’m comfortable in my skin, I’m happy where I am, I’m moving on the correct Kelley trajectory. And I do think that’s true.  But 27 was kind of a strange year.  So was 19.

So, I’m 16.

16 is A Big Year, right?  It’s typically when, after a brief lesson with Mr. Sabella and his handy footbrake at Driver’s ed, and then a harrowing year (for them, anyway) spent driving mom or dad around, we are finally released out into the wild.  Driving to basketball practice alone the first time on March 2 twenty years ago(I just cried when I wrote that) I had the sense that I was on the verge of something big, that I was on the precipice of my own life.

At 16, I fell in love and learned to kiss, thank goodness, because the first one with my beau may have drawn blood. There was passion, at least. I had my heart broken in pieces by the man I’m now married to, learned how to be a friend, and learned who to trust.  I learned that things are complicated, nuanced. I learned to respect the body I’m in, because even though I’ve put said body through the ringer with children and marathons and volleyball tournaments when I really have no business playing in them anymore, I’m still grateful to it, still have the same hearty quads and big biceps I had back then.

The other day, someone asked me “How did you get those?  Do you lift your car?  Or your husband?” The fact is, I’ve always had them.  The problem was never, for example, getting the ball over the net when I served in volleyball.  It was keeping it from hitting the back wall. I was strong.  I am strong.  It’s served me well.

At 16, I realized the choices I made matter, and that being cool wasn’t better than doing the right thing.

At 16, when I got that freedom, I realized that even though I could drive away from mom and dad and home, I didn’t really want to.  It was a good place with good people where I knew I’d always be loved, even if I had acne.  And I had some acne.

Whenever spring comes, I dream about being 16.  I dream about my old boyfriend, I dream I’m late for the game, I dream about the house I grew up in. I dream I’m about to jump into my own life with two feet, that I can actually fly.

I didn’t learn all these things all at once, but the evolutionary process of learning these things-Big Things, Important Things-it started.  And what I still had was the knowledge of 15 and before, of being a kid, of being wide-eyed and excited and happy and ready and willing. I had a foot in both worlds-adult and child-and I was moving forward with both.

These things, I carry them with me inside.

What age are you?

Hope everyone had a great weekend!



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