13 years.

Friday, April 30, 2010

We were in fifth grade. On Sunday mornings, my best friend and I would meet at our youth group, which let out long before the adults streamed out of the sanctuary. During the free time, we would walk from our church through downtown Franklin to Earl's Fruit Stand and use our tithe money to buy a couple of apples. Mr. Earl was a crotchety old man, his skin weathered from years of tilling and harvesting, and he never seemed fond of children. But he was dearly loved in Franklin, especially when his annual Pumpkin Land arrived each Fall with its prize-winning pumpkins and gourds, petting zoo, and fresh honey.

My friend and I would sit just outside the fruit stand, savoring each juicy bite of our ill-gotten fruit. We talked incessantly - as 10-year-old girls are known to do - and carefully considered who would be invited to our next sleepover and how middle school next year would be so different. We wore thick bangs, overalls, and innocence.

After that year, our walks to Earl's ended abruptly as we changed schools, changed churches, and saw a lot less of each other. A new season had blown in: new friends, new commitments, new ways to spend our free time. Years passed. Then came graduations, weddings, babies, new homes. Dreams, heartbreak, trials, hope.

This morning, something magical happened. Those same two girls walked those same streets together towards Earl's Fruit Stand. Steaming coffee in one hand, purses in the other, we walked past the shops in downtown Franklin that were just opening their doors for the day. Neither of us was conscious of the irony of our familiar walk - or the 13 years that had taken our innocence but given us wisdom in return. Earl's Fruit Stand closed years ago with the passing of Mr. Earl and left behind only a deserted field of weeds, gravel, and memories. Our conversation today was quite different: how her son is beginning to read, our most recent thrift store finds, our gratitude for this new season.

In some ways, I felt like that same girl that walked those same streets 13 years ago. Just a girl taking a walk with her friend through a place that feels a lot like home and has for a very long time. I guess you never really know what your future is going to look like until you're walking in its steps.

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