When You Grow Whiskers

I’m munching a carrot on the deck, reading a book in the sunshine when a young man comes out the front door of the neighbor’s house. He’s wearing read skinny jeans and has a backpack and a Gatorade, and looks at me as he comes down the steps.

I’m crunching the carrot like a horse because my jaw’s gone a little slack, but I can’t think of anything to say, so I just stare at him over the top of my book.

Connor? I want to blurt out, but it sounds rude even in my head. More what I want to say is, You have whiskers! but that’s hardly any better.

He swigs from his Gatorade and heads down the street.

I sit for a full three minutes trying to mentally fill in a ten-year gap. Last time I saw Connor he was six years old. I was ten, the dirty, barefooted neighbor girl who would build forts in the forest behind the house and make slip ‘n slides with a tarp and hose. Of all the boys on the block, Connor invited me to his sixth birthday party at Bunker Beach, where we crashed into each other’s tubes in the wave pool and ate string cheese and drank juice boxes. His family moved away then, and only just came back to the house because his great-grandparents died.

And now he has whiskers!

I sit and muse about what a funny thing life is, but hardly get anywhere before another past-life friend is passing on the other side of street. Carl, wearing black socks to his calves and a shirt with a math symbol, was always a rather awkward kid who wore capes and built Legos with my brother Freeman. His family went to the church where my dad pastored. Anytime I see his mother at the grocery store or the library, I try to dodge her, because she talks so much. Mostly about her children, like which math class Carl is in or which science project won in 4H at the fair, and I listen politely and watch Carl stare at his feet, wondering why she won’t let him say all this for himself.

Just after Carl passes, Brogan pulls up from work, grabbing shoes from her trunk and texting simultaneously as she goes up the driveway. She doesn’t notice me watching her, smiling for the twenty years of friendship she encapsulates. She hasn’t reached the door when little Abby Burns comes walking home from school, only she isn’t so little anymore, probably fourteen, with thick blonde hair hanging nearly to her yoga pants. I remember all the evenings spent in her basement with the neighborhood girls, dressing up in old dance costumes for fashion shows, or playing round of Truth or Dare–those dramatic years of youth that were so feeling and so fear-filled.

Those were the years where we did not know our hearts, and our hearts were dying to be known.

Now I see past lives pass on the street with barely a glance of acknowledgment, each person absorbed in their own little world, a world constructed by where they’ve been the last ten years, and where they hope to be in ten. I was thinking today about eternity set in our hearts. How restless I have felt, being home, and isn’t that the human condition, to always want to be where you’re not?

Because this is not home.

This is the ten-year gap that will one day come to a close, and you’ll run into yourself and think, “You have whiskers!”

I’m trying to wrap my mind around eternity. The fact that from the moment of conception, I am. Forever.

I will always exist.

Whether here, or in heaven, or on the perfected earth, I will never cease to exist. It’s so astonishing I can only think about it for about thirty seconds before I have to stop.

Then I think about how, because of Jesus, I get to live, not just exist, and that living is an echo of the real thing in Eden, and a foreshadowing of the real thing to come again.

And how you can’t live without your heart.

And when you find your heart is the echo of a Father’s heart, your life feels like you’ve been six all along only to wake up one morning and find you’ve grown whiskers, and there’s no ten-year gap to fill in. I think that must be why Jesus calls it “born again.”

I’ve reached the stub of my carrot. A man jogs by and waves at me. Mike, from church.

I grin and wave back.

 

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