He slides the bread knife through a doughy roll, tucks a spoonful of barbecued pork inside. Slanted light streams through the shutters of the bay window striping the kitchen table and our place mats. A lone candle flickers on the island a few feet away: the house is still and quiet. I lean into the slats of the ladder back, rest my socked foot on the rungs of the empty chair usually filled with my husband’s presence. But tonight, I’m fixated on the crooked smile and squinted eyes behind hipster glasses seated across from me. Waiting in the tension of silence on the heels of my son’s sobering sentence, “Mom, I don’t want to live with regrets.”
Our conversation started with his dreamy sentence, a pocket of future wishes thrown out like fairy dust. He was waiting to see if they would be scooped up and nurtured or brushed off as foolishness.
We talked of boarding boats setting sail for Northern Europe, attending classes in the world’s finest schoolrooms, living in a simple flat above the bustle of crowded city streets; navigating underground transportation and cultivating passion among a collective of creatives.
Together we built a story, interchanging paragraphs. A simple sentence turned into an adventurous tale that made our hearts thump. A story we longed to breathe life into, instead of leaving it alone to collect dust on a shelf.
I don’t want to live my life chasing someone’s dream of conformity, is what my son was expressing. He didn’t realize he was attaching words to my unspoken longings.
Nodding my head, I expressed that his father and I desire for him to live with abandon, unchained from the expectations of others.
More than anything else, I want you to know Jesus, I told him, because he has created you with purpose and calling, for such a time as this. And as long as you communicate with the one who made you, I know your life will be one of fulfillment.
That’s when he got up from the table in search of Oreo’s and milk.
Seated at the end of a particle board table in the school library, a slice of lukewarm pizza lays on a paper plate in front of me, next to a can of Diet Coke dripping condensation into a thin paper napkin. After two years of every-other-week lunch dates as her mentor, she is still too embarrassed to eat in front of me. Says she isn’t hungry, like she does every time we meet.
I ask her questions about grades and relationships and her eyes dart from the ceiling to the wall of windows looking out on the sunny parking light as she responds to them. Words expressed through a smirky smile that rarely leaves her face.
“If you could do anything you want, and time and money weren’t obstacles, what would you do,” I ask her.
As I wait for her to think, I envision myself walking down the busy streets of Kensington in west London, past the crooked trunks of wisteria dangling from second floor windows while a Maserati pulls into a lone parking place. I picture myself congregating with friends at a favorite church, vibrant with cultural diversity; laughing afterward, while heaping curry on our plates.
“Sleep,” she said. “I would sleep all day.”
I bit into of my cold pizza, wiped my mouth with a soppy napkin, and realized how much I take dreaming for granted. How much I don’t want to live with regrets.
“The fatal thing is to reduce faith to an explanation. It is not an explanation, it is a passion.” Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way