Sunday, June 12, 2011

on finishing things and taking out stitches

Tonight is our last youth group meeting. The air is full of fluff from fluff-making trees (dogwoods?), and the irises on their thick stalks are tossing their ruffled heads all along the way to the beach. We are going to cart down charcoal and veggie burgers and turkey hot dogs and whatnot. We are going to throw Frisbees and kick soccer balls and raise a general ruckus with a gaggle of teenagers, and then it will be over.

I'm sitting on the couch gearing up for this. I'm thinking it over. I'm drinking water to replace the water sneaking out of the corners of my eyes when I'm not paying attention. Tricky tears, they think they're fooling me. Let's just say: in these past few years, these teenagers (and almost-teenagers) have grown on me.

I've also been picking out stitches, painstakingly, from a sundress I've been working on. I was impatient last weekend and dashed in through the sewing machine, so now I have eight circles of elastic-bobbined stitches to remove so that I can do it all over again, slowly and properly. This is not the sort of stitching one can rip out: it is stitching that must be picked out, stitch by stitch. Hundreds, even thousands of stitches. A little ashamed of myself, I'm going backwards, developing a crick in my neck and hand spasms, in order to be able to begin from the beginning.

There's probably a lesson in the stitches story: measure twice, cut once, etc. This practice of pulling out stiches is drilling into my muscles and ligaments a lesson that I hope will stay with me. It is also giving me time to think. I'm thinking about how good work is often hard, and how it takes a long time, and how its value is often impossible to recognize until after the fact.

I've also been thinking about how meeting with the same crowd of teenagers Sunday night after Sunday night shapes a person. Their jokes, their music, their YouTube videos, their homework woes and groundings and big questions--they start to sink in. As do their smiles, and their laughter, and their fascination with shoe laces, and their crazy interruptions and hilarity and singing while they wash dishes. All these little moments, these Sunday nights and Friday nights and Sunday mornings and trips and conversations, have been like stitches in the fabric of my life, some of them perfect and strong, some of them uneven and knotted. But there's no going back and removing what has been, even if this is the end of something: it's only forward from here. I'm head over heels for each and every one of these not-quite-grown-ups. You couldn't pay me a million dollars to rip those stitches out.

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