“So you’re telling me there’s a hose that needs replaced in my car? And it’s going to cost how much?” Stefanie gripped the phone a little tighter as the mechanic rambled off a rough estimate. Fabulous, she thought grimly, that’s the entire balance of my savings. “Okay, well, I guess go ahead and start working on it. Just give me a call when it’s finished. Thanks.”
She clicked the phone off and dropped it next to her on the couch before looking around her sparsely furnished apartment. As she had done multiple times in the past month, Stefanie wondered if she’d done the right thing by moving out of her parents’ house so soon after her college graduation. Many of her friends were still at home at least until they found a steady job. They were saving up money and paying down school bills while she sat in a living room with two mismatched chairs, a television that got exactly two and a half channels, and a stack of bills on the kitchen counter that amounted to more money than she had.
“God, what did I get myself into? I’m barely even making anything at my job yet; what made me think I could live out on my own?” A discouraged tear slid down her face as she whispered the prayer. She didn’t bother wiping it away.
Life was so much easier when she was a kid, when her biggest worry in a day was what flavor Popsicle she’d have for snack. Her parents, especially her mom, provided her with an ideal childhood. Long summer days at the pool with hot dogs for lunch, afternoons of building snowmen and then coming inside to mugs of hot chocolate. Why had she been in such a hurry to grow up? All those days of wishing to be older, to be out all on her own. She had had no idea what she was really wishing for. If she could only have one more day to be a child. One more day of no worries…
A knock at the door abruptly ended Stefanie’s daydream. She wasn’t sure who would be visiting so close to dinnertime, so she creaked the door open slowly. As soon as she saw her mother’s face she swung the door open the rest of the way.
“Mom! What are you doing here?”
“Oh, I was just in the neighborhood. I wasn’t sure if you’d eaten dinner yet and silly me made too much chicken. I thought we could eat together if it’s okay with you?” She held up a casserole dish wrapped in aluminum foil and smiled. The kind of motherly smile that instantly righted every wrong thing in the world.
Stefanie sniffed back threatening tears. “That would be… I’d… I’d love that.”
They set the small kitchen table with clashing plates, many of which were scratched or chipped. It didn’t matter. The food and the company made up for what the presentation lacked.
After several minutes of enjoyable conversation, Stefanie set her fork aside. “Mom, I really can’t thank you enough for bringing me dinner. How’d you know…?”
Her mom smiled and placed a hand on hers. “It’s never easy starting out, sweetheart. I figured you might enjoy some company for a change instead of eating alone.”
“Thank you,” Stefanie whispered. “This whole growing up thing is a little harder than I expected it to be. Most days I wonder if anything will ever go right.” She released a heavy sigh.
“One day, they will. One day you’ll wake up and go to a job you thoroughly enjoy. The next day you’ll wake up married to a man you love with all of your heart. And the next day you’ll be the mother to the most amazing little girl who has your eyes and her daddy’s smile. The key is to enjoy every stage as they come. Even this one.”
Long after her mother went home, Stefanie considered her words. It was true what she said. There was more to being an adult than just magically having everything handed to you. It was a long, sometimes grueling, most times beautiful process that deserved to be appreciated.
There was something to treasure in every phase of life, even when that phase included mismatched chairs and a stack of bills.
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