Lessons Of 16

        Here's my story about being 16. Its true- tell me what you think!

        Lessons of Sixteen

My year of being sixteen was marked by the typical adventures of friends, sports, and school. I existed in the sort of strange limbo I imagine many teenagers feel. Not a child, nor an adult. Allowed to be a bit reckless, but expected to take more responsibility for myself with each passing month. I did the all the typical teenage activities including babysitting jobs on the weekends. Until one night, in my last month of being sixteen, I had never considered much about how exactly I defined my role as a teenager.

Johnny, Samantha and Madison, the kids that I babysit, live across the street from me. They are wild, energetic and sometimes obnoxious, but adorable. Each plays a unique part in their family dynamic. Johnny, the oldest, is the typical nine year-old boy. He likes slime, video games and ice cream and thinks girls are gross. He is the mischievous, teasing older brother.  His sturdy build and dirty blond hair gives him a look to match. Samantha, the middle child is the angel. She is well behaved, sweet and soft-spoken. Like Johnny, her physical appearance almost seems to mimic her role in the family. She is small in every sense of the word: short and extremely thin with mousy brown hair and petite features, except for her eyes which are huge and dark. Madison, the youngest is an energetic and utterly adorable six-year old. Johnny and Samantha tend to view her as their annoying little sister, always tagging along and routinely pulling stunts for attention. Her toothy grin, blonde bob, and talkative nature make her the center of attention- which is exactly the way she likes it.

When I arrived that evening to babysit, Johnny was out at his cousin’s hockey game, and Samantha and Madison were parked on the couch watching “Stuart Little”. Naturally, Madison was squirming around waving her limbs about and trying to attract my attention. At the other end of the couch Samantha, who most people just call Sammy, was curled up in a little ball beneath a massive mound of blankets. There were so many blankets I could barely see her eyes and nose poking out. Though it was below freezing out, the thermostat in the family room was turned up to 74 degrees. It seemed like an awful lot of blankets considering how warm the room was. Mesmerized by the movie, neither of them said much as I made and served them dinner and washed the dishes. At bedtime, 7:30 p.m., on the dot, I told them it was time to go upstairs. Madison, a ball of energy as usual, retaliated. I turned to Sammy, whose eyes seemed to be closing. I vaguely remembered her mother mentioning something about her being very tired, but not knowing why. Since I knew getting Sammy upstairs would be easy, I decided to go for the challenge and carried an indignant Madison up to the bed first. The two girls sleep together in a huge king-size bed, and I lay between them until they fall asleep. When I came back downstairs to carry Sammy upstairs, I couldn’t tell if she was asleep yet or not.

“Sammy” I called. She didn’t respond. I walked over to the couch. She was folded up in the corner, sleeping. As I scooped into my arms I found that there were even more blankets on top of her than I had suspected. As I lifted her, she woke up and opened her eyes a little. Her body felt unusually warm in my arms. Not thinking much of it since she’d just emerged from enough blankets to keep ten people twice her size warm, I layed her down in bed. I climbed in between Sammy and Madison and flicked off the light as I had done so many times before. In the dim light thrown onto the bed by the streetlight outside the window noticed that Sammy’s shoulders were shaking. I sat up and turned on the light. “What’s the matter Sammy?” I asked. Madison seized the chance to get out of bed, and interrupted me to ask to go downstairs to get a snack and water. I wouldn’t normally have wanted her to go, but I was preoccupied and thus consented. Sammy, who had been facing the other way, turned over towards me. With the lights on, I could see tears gathered in her dark eyes. “I’m scared” she whispered. “Of what?” I asked her, with a feeling that wasn’t really it. Being scared was something Madison did for attention, but never Sammy. I’d put her to bed so many times in the last four years, and she’d never been scared before. When she responded the she was scared of green goblins I knew she was lying. She knew better, and besides, Sammy never did things just for attention. I was a bit unsure of how to answer, so I mumbled something about green goblins being made up. Madison skipped back into the room and settled into her spot on the other side of me.

Both girls turned over to sleep. Madison fell asleep right away. Sammy asked me to rub her back, but I stopped as soon as I felt it. Her skin was unusually hot to the touch. Sure that I was imagining things, I felt Madison’s back with my other hand to compare. Madison’s was much cooler. I turned my hand over and put the back of my palm against her back again. I flicked on the lights back on and sat up.

Sammy turned to face me and sat up too. She came up slowly, her cheeks flushed and her eyes large and glassy. “Sammy-“I began, but she finished my sentence “I don’t feel good”. Without a moment’s hesitation, I hurried downstairs and grabbed the thermometer, my cell phone, and the Children’s Motrin.  I held the thermometer was under her tongue and, with my other arm dialed her mother’s cell phone number. I knew that her parents were at a party in downtown Boston, and would be home late. On the phone, I could hear the sounds of the party in the background. The connection was fuzzy, but I tried by best to reiterate as clearly and loudly as I could manage that I thought Sammy had a fever, maybe a high one. All I could make out were muffled bits: “It’ll be fine”, “two teaspoons Motrin” “see you later”. Her mother didn’t seem too concerned, which I took as a good sign. With one hand I flipped my phone closed and with the other I pulled the thermometer out from under Sammy’s tongue. The digits registered at nearly 102 degrees.

I administered Sammy the dose of Motrin, and took two icepacks from the downstairs freezer. I held the ice against the back of her neck and the small of her back. I looked over at Madison, who was sound asleep. Sammy managed to lie down, and I turned off the lights again, hoping she would sleep as well. “Are you warm or cold?” I asked her quietly. Instead of answering me she cried harder, deep, heavy noises that seemed to take all the breath out of her body. “I don’t know if I’m warm or cold” she kept repeating. Her breath was loud in the still, dark room. Everything she was saying- something about her head and her stomach was muffled by the sound of her crying. I moved to the edge of the bed, and brushed some of the hair off her warm cheeks. She felt my cool hand on her hair, and moved onto my lap. Though her skin was hot she was shivering. I wrapped the blankets so they enveloped her, but left just enough space for the icepacks. I held her tighter and moved to the edge of the bed, letting my feet dangling off the side, her body curled up on my lap.

It felt strange, sitting there like that. I was sixteen, in that uncertain limbo between childhood and adult. I wasn’t carefree to be sure, but not weighted down by the worries of age either. I was long past the days of being the one curled up with a fever, but holding her there didn’t feel right either. The advantage of being a teenager, I suppose, is still being able to remember what it was like to be kid, but being able to discover what it’s like to be an adult, bit by bit. Sitting on the edge of the bed, holding Sammy, I surely didn’t feel young, but not grown up either. I didn’t know exactly what role I filled, but in that moment, there we were. I picked her and all the blankets up and walked over to the window, careful to keep one hand on the icepacks. Her eyes were closing and the heavy breath of her crying had become calmer. I stood with her entire weight in my arms, watching cars whoosh by and the tree branches quiver in the cold wind. Everything was dark and still. I felt like a character in a movie or someone in a song, and nothing like myself. I would turn seventeen in a few weeks, but felt as if I still didn’t understand how to be sixteen. Sammy’s head rested on my shoulder. I couldn’t make her feel better but I could be there, at least. Looking out I thought how every person, in one of those cars had been sixteen once. They too had felt neither wise nor naïve. They too had felt like everything depended on them but at the same time nothing did. But maybe none of them had ever stood where I stood, with a tiny person in their arms, in a dark, quiet room, watching the cars go by and wondering if they were doing the rights thing. Maybe none of them had worried about whether or not this was how being sixteen was supposed to be. But then again, maybe they all had worried and wondered about those same things. Sammy had fallen asleep on my shoulder. I walked away from the window and laid her body gently on the bed. “Goodnight” I whispered and walked quietly from the room.


caitlynn caitlynn
18-21, F
Feb 7, 2010