I watched the Miss Tehama County competition last night at the Tehama District Fair. Six young -- young -- women answered questions and demonstrated talent and poise on an outdoor stage right on the fair's midway, supported by friends and family and a host of onlookers.
And I puddled right up as they came out, one by one, escorted by their fathers or family friends.
They are so beautiful, each of them, in their youth, their optimism, their courage, their hopefulness. They are the up-and-comers, the next generation, the ones who, in another couple of decades, will be the lawmakers, the parents, the CEOs, the cornerstones of the business world.
Maybe that makes me officially "old." But I can see this passage of time so clearly, almost physically feel it move from my generation to theirs.
I remember feeling that way when I was young, like there wasn't anything I couldn't do if I wanted to do it. I remember a time when my hair wasn't grey, my face was unlined, nothing hurt, my muscles were stretchable and lithe and strong, when life was full of possibilities, and I could pick from everything.
I don't think I really understood my potential then. And I'm not sure I ever reached it, the highest I might achieve, looking back at my life now.
Maybe that is the source of the tears: both the beauty of youth and the yet untapped potential each holds within herself, and the understanding now that we have all these choices available to us in our youth and that we ourselves are responsible for determining our own destiny as we choose, as we act over the years.
It's not that I don't still have choices and options and potential: I know I do until I take my last breath. But I had no real idea how much power I did have back then; I'm not sure any of us do until much later in life when we have made the choices that have determined our futures.
Perhaps it is always that way: the older generation realizes what a gift the younger generation has in front of them, but young seldom listens with to old with any real comprehension of what we're trying to say. And the curse of the older generation is that we have this knowledge within us, but it is rarely recognized for the insight that it is.
I'm sure I'll continue to puddle up at weddings and graduations as I grow older. And I hope I will gain wisdom and more insight along with the years. And what I truly hope is that somehow I will be able to communicate that through my words so that someone, some time, will understand what a gift youth is, what an incredible opportunity we have in time, what thoughtful care we should take in making our choices and decisions. And how we always have second chances, even when we find them hard to see.