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  • Writer's pictureJeni Kelsch

Pencil Me In

“Life doesn’t let you write in pencil!”, came a loud lament from across the room. I found this a surprisingly profound and succinct statement on wisdom and the hard choices in life… and a little funny, until I heard the wail of frustration that followed it. My middle daughter was attempting to fill out a form for the orthodontist and there were simply too many questions she didn’t know the answer to. “Why are they asking me my hobbies? I don’t do any of them with my teeth.”, she demanded. ‘That’s so they have something to ask you while they have your hands in your mouth.”, I answered. “They won’t be able to understand me.”, she sighed knowingly, “I could be talking about anything!” Oh, the pain of a practical child. The wise one, my puzzler, this child was born with all the common sense her siblings before her had left behind in the womb. The older three had packed light for the transition to the outside world, this one took all she could carry. Unfortunately for her, life’s lack of practice runs still had the ability to throw her into despair, no matter how much she prepared. I suppose there is one like her in every crowd. Our largish family could seem quite crowded, but my children seem to have spread themselves out a bit by all choosing a role not previously taken by anyone else in the family.

We called my oldest the master of the obvious when he was young. He was known for saying things like, “You should have studied more.” to a friend who failed a test. As he got to college, he was known for his ability to always sense exactly where to draw the line in bearing another’s pain. “That sounds like a you problem.” Is something we all have heard at one time or another. The frustrating part, when you are on the receiving end of this statement, is that he is almost always right.

My second son is the quest taker. He leaves no stone unturned, no adventure under explored, he loves to play and loves even more to win. I remember breaking the sad news to him at age 4 that he would never be older than his big brother, the only consolation I could offer is that maybe he would be taller. He is- he considers it a win.

My first daughter came into the world completely content. So pleasantly at peace, in fact, they could hardly get her to cry. She simply didn’t have anything she cared enough to complain about. We used to tease that this child had barely made it to earth and in fact floats a little off the surface, just the tips of her toes touching enough to propel her around as she glides unconcerned through the world. It sounds lovely, and probably is, but bringing her down enough to actually graduate high school was like trying to form a brick out of bubbles. I’ve had easier tasks.

As for the youngest, so many roles were already taken she decided to round it all out by just being the most…everything. She’s the loudest, the pushiest, the most stubborn, the friendliest, the most generous, and the most cheerful the most often. I think she chose well, had she been any less we would have forgotten her at the gas station or grocery store at some point I am sure. Her particular brand of being has been the key to her survival.

As all these people have added themselves to my world, my role has remained the same. I keep them alive, keep them going, and hopefully keep them safe and sane. My task is to see the disasters before they take full form, put out the fires when they are still small, and pray for miracles. Currently, nobody is lost, broken, or on fire… and I have seen more miracles than I ever thought possible. I wish I could do better, but they are forever presenting me with brand new problems to solve. All I can do is lean on wisdom and experience and boldly go forward because as we all realize at some point, life doesn’t let you write in pencil.

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