I’m too chicken to jump out of a plane. Too unprepared to run a marathon. And too sane to get a tattoo. What does that leave exactly? How will I ever mark the end of my 20s? I have 30 days to figure it out. But for now, reflection seems like a good start.
April 6, 1984. I came kicking and screaming into this world. Straight into the arms of Jeffery Graves and Keyna Rose. It was the first, best and most important thing that would ever happen to me and I didn’t even have a choice in the matter.
My dad began his career as a school teacher. Every year he began his classes by playing a song. A folk song by the late Harry Chapin called “Flowers are Red.” In the song, a little boy is taught by his teacher that flowers are green and red. The child is only allowed to paint with those two colors. When he questions the teacher, he’s told that’s just the way it is. That’s the way it has always been. Years go by and the little boy finds himself at a new school with a new teacher. And when this teacher catches him painting his flowers green and red, she asks him why only two colors? He says it’s because that’s the way flowers have always been seen. The teacher is shocked. She is different. She doesn’t agree. She teaches the boy a new lesson. She explains there are so many colors to choose from. So many “colors in the rainbow,” the lyric goes. And he should use every one.
My dad’s students probably thought he was crazy or on something. Both are debatable. But that’s a snapshot of my childhood. It was full of love, expression and imagination. It was free of judgement. Free of conventions. Sometimes it was messy. Sometimes I thought I was reenacting Sleeping Beauty and destroyed the entire rose garden in our front yard with a baseball bat trying to save the Princess trapped in the thorns. Sometimes your sister refuses to play the Virgin Mary in the live nativity you’ve created in the living room, so you step in, grab the baby doll and take your seat at the manger. The show must go on.
We were encouraged. Taught to think freely. Taught respect and gratitude. Given experiences beyond our small town. Curiosity. Perspective. Kindness. And so much color.
My foundation is solid. My mind is open. My heart is full. Three whole decades on this Earth later, those are still the best birthday gifts I could ever ask for.