To Lara at Sweet Sixteen

tea-house

Laras sixteen year old self would not have paid the slightest bit of attention to this spaced out old lady spewing her well-meaning but scatter-brained advice. So I know there’s really no point in saying anything to her at all.

There are wishes I’d like to make for her though, if I were able to fling them back in time and spin them around her so-serious little self and somehow make them come true for her, even for one glorious day .

She is a waitress at the Bluewater Tea Room on the shores of Lake Huron, wistfully gazing through the screened windows at her little yellow Valiant parked in the sand and baking in the sun.

Wishing she could be somewhere out there on the beach herself, instead of in here serving foot long hotdogs and home cut fries to skimpily clad tourists who keep tracking in the sand. Wishing they would just get back on their stupid boats and sail off into the sunset and take their gawky teenaged boys with them. (Not to mention all those cute little blue-eyed blondes with their long bronzed limbs – it makes her sad that she isn’t one of them.)

She is wishing it wasn’t so hot, and that ‘el groucho’ in the back sweating over the grill could think of something nice to say for a change. And that she could smack the leering face of the next smirking moron who asks her what time she gets off work today. Because after her shift she is almost always too tired to do anything except drive home and kick off her stinking sneakers and shower the smell of the deep fryer grease off her skin and out of her hair.

If I could, I would grant this sixteen year old girl a little more empathy for the guy in the kitchen who works all those long hot hours trying to keep his little business going. In a few more years he will have to give it up and the tea room will be torn down, and she will never learn what becomes of him and his food splattered apron and dangling cigarettes and snarly old face.

I would grant her a moment of amazement, of unbiased objectivity, just the very briefest of epiphanies when she looks in a mirror so that she might realize the great worth and the special beauty of that brown-eyed girl looking back at her.

I would let her feel the power she possesses to bruise an ego and to break a heart because she has no idea she is capable of doing either one of those things.

I’d let her know it wouldn’t kill her to be a little more pleasant and less uptight, and that it’s perfectly okay to smile more and to laugh out loud and to tease people back, even if they’re scary strangers. It’s okay to have fun.

I would grant her a greater appreciation of the warm breezes off the lake, the smell of the water and the scent of suntan oil, the sound of the gulls and the sight of them circling in the sky and swooping down to squabble over some scrap of food. I would make her really look at those famous lake sunsets that she always takes for granted.

I would draw out more laughter, more sparkle, more joy – because they were always there, deep inside her, trying so very hard to get out.

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