Virtue & Mischief: Seems like 15 Years


Abby, our daughter, just turned 15. I am not one of those who ponders such a fact and announces with abject incredulity, “Where did the time go!?!”

Nor will I post #simplynotpossible or its ilk on my facebook page. I know where the time went and not only is it “possible,” it IS. Put somewhat bluntly, it feels like (at least!) 15 years of life have transpired. Dirty diapers and skinned knees and 2 a.m. vomiting episodes. The Wiggles and My Little Pony and Hannah Montana and Dora-the-Explorer.

Abby used to think the water tower in Lee’s Summit, Missouri (where she spent the first 2 ½ years of her life) was a giant “bee-pop” (lollipop) and that the traffic light two blocks away from our house was some sort of three-eyed monster. She was amazed that I could accurately predict when its different “eyes” would light up and what color they would be. Once upon a time, I used to carry her in my arms and sprint through the basement as Lyle Lovett’s “You’re Not From Texas” blared in the background, Abby giggling throughout and begging “Again? Again?” when the music finally (blessedly) concluded. I did the same thing after each viewing of “The Snowman,” the video based on Raymond Briggs’ award-winning children’s book about a snowman who comes to life and flies to the North Pole with the young boy who made him. Now I couldn’t lift her two inches off the ground if either (or both) of our lives depended on it.

Yes, it seems like 15 years to me: Learning to read and learning to swim and learning to ride a bicycle. Sleepovers in the tent next to the house and sleepovers at friends’ houses. Candy Land and Crazy Eights. Overwatch and Portal 2. Adding and subtracting. Multiplying and dividing. Algebra and geometry. Birthday parties. Homecoming dances. The “East Echoes.” “The Hankerin’ Hillbillies.” “Zombie Nights.” The Greenville fifth- and sixth-grade basketball team. The Greenville High School varsity tennis team. Between toddlerhood and the pre-teen years, we read the “Magic Treehouse” series of books together. Eventually, she became more independent and tackled “The Warrior” series of books alone, then “The Hunger Games” and “The Maze Runner” and similar dystopian novels that always seem to be popular among the teenaged crowd (in my day it was “Fahrenheit 451” and “Dune”).

She talks. A lot. And fairly loudly. Krista is welcome to correct me, but my memory is that this has always been so. Upon my first viewing of “Finding Nemo” I thought the screenwriters surely based the seagulls (“MINEMINEMINEMINEMINE”) on Abby at 18 months or so. We quickly grew used to Abby’s volubility and volume level, but folks who didn’t interact with her on a daily basis were sometimes astonished. Once, after a church service where Abby had been in particularly rare, garrulous form, a friend who had been seated in the pew in front of us greeted us with what I took to be equal parts disbelief and admiration. She shook our hands, shook her head, pointed at Abby, and exclaimed, “Is she EVER quiet?!”

“Well…now that you mention it…no. No, she isn’t.”

She still isn’t. She even talks in her sleep. She gabs and giggles and gabs some more, nowadays mostly with her splendid and diverse coterie of friends. It has not escaped my notice that during her various peer confabs, there’s a lot of talking going on but (sometimes) perilously little listening. I think good and consistent listening is a skill that takes a little longer to develop.

In any event, it does not sting me to admit that her circle of friends are more at the center of her universe than I am. That, too, is appropriate. Abby is spreading her wings. Fairly soon she’ll be driving, graduating (I think) from high school, and pursuing all sorts of exciting and terrifying paths. Perhaps one day she’ll go to college, move away, marry, have children of her own. No doubt she’ll experience successes and failures, laughter and tears, joy and heartache. Whatever the next decade and a half holds in store for her, I’m sure it’ll be interesting. Lord willing, I will be along—at whatever distance she requires—for the ride.

And it will seem like 15 years.

By Tim Swensen

Virtue and Mischief

Timothy Swensen is the author of the weekly column series Virtue and Mischief that is published every Tuesday in The Daily Advocate. He can be reached at [email protected]. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.

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