I recently had the very great joy of introducing Silas, Petra, and Carlos to some family friends who were visiting my mom. On the way to our meet up, Carlos asked me, “Who are these people again?” and I realized…oh. They were my “bigs.” Just as I take Carlos for some quality time away from his family, Anne and Chuck did the same for me. I take an interest in Carlos’ life and the stuff he cares about–and they did the same for me. We integrate Carlos into our family life and involve him in whatever we have going on, and that is exactly what Anne and Chuck did for me when I was a tween and teen. Anne and Chuck have an amazing herb farm business (because they live in WV, I should note that it is a legal herb farm, not an…”herb” farm). I remember spending afternoons over there, clipping bundles of lemongrass, laying catnip on screens to dry, stripping leaves off of mint stems, and drinking tea on their porch. They came to my concerts and plays, sometimes, and were always honest in their responses to these events. Although I had known them for many years, I got close to them right before my family life sort of collapsed. It was lucky timing.
Probably the best thing Anne and Chuck did for me was to meet me right where I was, without judgement or commentary. When I think about the folks I knew as a kid who are still people I love to see, that’s one thing they have in common. They took me seriously as a human and talked to me that way. I was an unusually serious child, and I think that many adults found that unnerving. Even as a little kid, I sensed their discomfort and I felt that I was constantly disappointing people–not being the kind of kid they wanted a kid to be. I was blessed to have a number of adults in my life who were kind enough not to be bothered or bemused by my unusual nature.
The other kindness that Anne and Chuck, and a handful of other older friends have done for me is to forgive me for being young. I know that I said and did a number of stupid things around them–things I thought were completely mature and savvy, and which, in retrospect, are cringe-inducing in their awkwardness. I had, to put it kindly, a long awkward phase (which, it is possible, has not yet really ended). There are adults from my childhood community whom I avoid because I know I am still a little kid in their eyes. One person in particular frequently brings up something I did when I was four–and which I was embarrassed about with only a few days’ more growing up. That one incident has colored every interaction I have had with her since then, which seems crazy–but it’s because she still sees that four-year-old when she sees me. People like Anne and Chuck still, I’m sure, remember what a weirdo I was at twelve, but they let the past be past.
My experience with Anne and Chuck is part of what makes me want to do Big Brothers/Big Sisters. They made such a difference in my life by just showing me what it was like to be an adult, by taking me seriously, and by supporting me in the things I found important. I hope I can do some tiny equivalent of that for Carlos.