Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chapter 5, part 2: Family Input

Daddy and my two younger sisters were already at the table. As soon as I sat down, everyone folded their hands and we bowed our heads.

“Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let thy gifts to us be blessed. Amen,” we said in sing-song unison. 

Mom stood back up and served us. 

“Daddy, can I get my nose pierced?” Kirsten asked. 

Daddy appeared not to hear the question, so Kirsten repeated it. 

“I heard you but didn’t answer because we’ve been over this too many times already. I’m not having my daughter look like that. If you want to mutilate your body when you’re 18, go ahead, but as long as you’re living under my roof—“

“Fine, whatever. It’ll be the longest year of my life, but I can be patient. At least, as long as I have my drivers’ license. Can you or Mom take me out tonight to practice?”

“Get your homework done first and we’ll see,” Mom said. She sighed, “Frank, doesn’t it make you feel old? Kirsten driving and Giselle starting college … you still set on going to Elk River, sweetie?” 

“Actually I was just looking over the options again.”

“I’m so relieved to hear that. I’ve been praying you’d change your mind about going so far away. I had visions of you ending up married to some Ohio boy. I’d never get to see my grandbabies.”

“Mom! You’re being ridiculous.”

"Don’t talk to your mother that way.” It was one of first sentences Daddy had spoken to me since the accident. Then again, he hadn’t been home much.

“Sorry. It’s just, I don’t even want to get married until after college, and you’re already pressuring me for grandchildren? And anyway, Elk River College is still in the running … along with UCLA.”

Mom got up to get Daddy a second helping. “UCLA works for me. God’s answering our prayers that you won’t go too far from home,” she called from the kitchen.

“Mom, you do know that I’m going to have to move out eventually.”

“Of course, of course, but you’ll always be my baby no matter how old you get. Is it wrong for a mother to want to be able to see her oldest daughter more than once or twice a semester. Of course it’s up to you, but doesn’t UCLA make the most sense?” Mom prompted.

I threw up my hands. “That’s where I’m stuck. I like UCLA but it feels too big for me. I’ve heard that it’s hard to get a spot in the dorms after freshman year, and apartments in that part of LA are expensive. Elk River is the right size, I loved it when I visited, and Oma was so happy at the thought of me going there. But it’s so far from home. I’m worried about missing out on everything back here.”
Ruth said, “You could always flip for it.”

“Give me a break, Ruthie.” I scoffed. “This isn’t as simple as what team kicks off first at one of your soccer matches. This is my life we’re talking about here. Why leave it up to chance?”

Mom started to ask me to apologize for my unkind words, but Kirsten cut her off. “Charlie says there’s no such thing as chance. He believes God is in control of every roll of the dice.”

I rolled my eyes. “And I thought Ruthie was stupid. You think God really cares if you land on Boardwalk and go bankrupt or if you pass go and collect $200?”
“Giselle, you know better than to talk like that,” Mom said. “That was unkind. Stupid is a word we do not allow in this house. Apologize to your sisters at once.”

“But Mom…

“Do as your mother says!” Daddy said in a low, steely voice. 
I ducked my head and complied with a suitably convincing plea for forgiveness. We finished the meal in silence.


After dinner, I went over to the piano to decompress before starting in on my homework.

Mom cleared the table and Daddy stood to help. At the kitchen sink, he embraced her from behind and kissed her neck. They murmured softly together for a while and then he retreated to their bedroom.

When Kirsten got our her homework, I stopped playing the piano and tried to look over the practice test for AP Calculus, but couldn’t concentrate. I had been doing well on the practice tests and didn’t have much motivation to go over it again. Kirsten was chatty and between listening to her anecdotes about who said what at school that day and helping her with her algebra problems when she got stuck, I had plenty to keep me busy.

Mom finished her kitchen chores and made a dramatic show of yawning.  
Kirsten looked up. “Mom, I’m almost done with my homework. Can we still go out driving?”

“Not tonight, I’m too worn out now. I think I’ll go to bed early. Don’t stay up too late, girls.”

Down the hall, the bedroom door clicked shut. Kirsten gave me a look and we rolled our eyes together.

Kirsten set down her pencil. “I’ve been thinking about your problem,” she said.

“You have, have you?  Do you know where I should go to college?”

“I have no clue.  I do know that I’d miss you either way, but that wasn’t my point.  It might sound weird, but Charlie is right in a way—about flipping for it, or God rolling the dice or whatever.  He says that all Christians could have more peace if we really believed in God’s sovereignty.”  

She sighed and got a dreamy look as we stood and headed for the family room, leaving our books and papers scattered across the table. “He’s so spiritual. He wants to be a pastor someday you know.”

I rolled my eyes behind her back. She was always going on about Charlie this and Charlie that. They’d been dating on and off since junior high. She couldn’t shut up about him. Couldn’t keep quiet, I automatically corrected myself. Like “stupid,” “shut up” was considered a bad word around here. Still, to hear her, you’d think Charlie was the second coming of Jesus, or at least one of His disciples.

At that moment something clicked. Out of nowhere I remembered the story of the disciples casting lots to pick the replacement for Judas. Maybe God did control every fall of the dice.

Kirsten went ahead of me and flopped onto a sofa. I stood in front of the TV with arms akimbo. 

“Get out of the way!” both my sisters said at once.

I didn’t budge. “Ruthie, Kirsten talked me into it.”

Kirsten sat up. “What did I talk you into?”

“I think we’ll leave where I go to college up to chance, otherwise known as God’s sovereignty. Who has a coin I can flip?”

At the very least, it could help me to see how it felt to be stuck with one choice over the other for a moment.

The coin landed on heads, Elk River’s assigned side.
Ohio. I was going to Ohio. It felt right. Maybe it was what I really wanted, or maybe it was God guiding me. Did it really matter?

“I’m going to Elk River!” I yelled at the top of my lungs. 
Mom and Daddy came out in their pajamas to see what the commotion was all about.

“Congratulations, sweetie,”  Mom said when I told her the news.
She pulled me into a hug, trying to hide her tears. “My little girl’s about to leave the nest. I’m so proud of you for being brave enough to listen for God’s voice instead of my fears. I’d be terrified of going so far away from home and leaving all my friends and family behind, but not you. You’ve always been my adventurous one.”