shaping the future
I still remember the day my little brother was born. We called Coonabarabran home. Mum had been wearing pastel Princess Diana style maternity tents for some time and I was in grade 3. I can't fill you in on such facts as the day of the week or the weather because twenty six years are quite a stash to blow the dust from. Besides, I was momentarily disappointed at having a baby brother rather than a baby sister. Tears were shed, and while I think perhaps I might remember grey sky, this probably has more to do with the perceived upset to my sibling dreams than the true state of the weather! Dad collected us from school and off we trundled to the local hospital where we all fell in love with Luke.
Actually I have only the haziest of recollections of the hospital and I cannot remember anything of my first glimpse of Luke. It must have happened, but my memories are more around his impact at home. He was a delightful cutie, more so because I didn't share a room with him - there were some spin offs to not having a little sister.
I remember wondering how Luke would sound when he started to talk. What would his voice be like? It never occurred to me that his gurgles and chuckles and goos and gaas were the precursor to his voice; that gradually the sounds would be moulded into words, then phrases and later, sentences; that his voice had been there all along, if only I had listened.
Twenty six years later and Luke's still talking, only now he sometimes uses a camera as well as words to express himself. My baby brother is a grown man on the cusp of fatherhood, and I'm proud of him. I love our lengthy, spirited conversations on msn and his quirky sense of humour. I'm still coming to terms with his dress sense, but hey - he is who he is, that is part of him as surely as the sound of his voice, and I honestly wouldn't swap him for any sister in the world!
I don't have to wonder any more about the sound of my brother's voice, but I still wonder who people will become in the future, not least myself. Already there are ingrained habits, ways of being, methods of doing I perform every day. I might call myself a free spirit but I like the bed made a certain way, the saucepans in their place and the towels hung neatly. I can imagine myself an old woman not unlike many of the patients I have nursed, fussing over the way my teeth are cleaned or how my singlet is tucked into my undies. Sometimes I allow my wondering to touch more on deeper themes of who I will be. Will I be gracious and gentle, or a querulous old bat, hell bent on making my carers lives miserable?
It seems to me the answer to these musings is found in the story of my brother. Just as his voice was there all the time, waiting to be turned to vowels and consonants, the old woman I will become is already here. The makings of who I will be and the legacy I will leave are hidden in my being. The difference is that while Luke's speech development was guided by genetics, instinct and developmental drives, I hold the keys to shaping who I will become. The choices I make today are the building blocks of the woman I will be. This is sobering and liberating all at once.
There have been a number of occasions recently where I have stopped and thought 'is this who I want to become?' Like the evening at the cinema when the woman behind us complained loudly and clearly 'Why do they have to sit there?' as Frank and I selected seats in front of her. I turned and said 'Because they are good seats. Because we can.' Or the day I observed a school girl throw a plastic bag on the grass at the park - I walked straight over and asked if she had finished with the bag before picking it up and telling her it wasn't OK to just throw rubbish on the ground. When I noticed the lights on at the local sports ground two days in a row I phoned the council and asked why they were on (they were being serviced in readiness for an upcoming football match), since they were creating an expense to both my tax dollar and the environment.
Three almost inconsequential moments. Three opportunities to respond. Three events that shaped the woman I am still becoming. Do I like where my responses are taking me? Assertive (yes, I like this); passionate (may I always be someone who acts on the strength of my convictions); making a difference (please, please let me be a woman who makes a difference); gracious... hmmm, maybe not. On no occasion was I rude, but were these points worth making?
I like that these three cameos saw me respond to situations that troubled me. It would be so easy to let life sweep me by, disempowering me in the force of its flow. Here were three occasions on which I chose to respond to my concerns. I had a voice and I like that. But let me not raise my voice for the sake of it. Rather let me become a thoughtful woman who steps forward with ever greater confidence and gentleness, softly but with strength. Those traits are already hidden within. Now is the time to let them grow.