Friday night, John and I spent hanging out at the Chaplain Youth Center. John has volunteered, bless his heart, to help the youth of the neighborhood stay off the sauce. The Center sponsored an alcohol-free barbeque to lure the young enlisted soldiers out of the bars. The two of us walked around the dorms like tow-head Jehovah's Witnesses trying rescue 18 year-old service members from the tempting Japanese nightlife. We asked them to join a few men of the cloth, JAG lawyers, mentors, and sober fiancé (yours truly) for burgers, cappuccinos, scrabble and good conversation.
I didn’t know just how much I wanted a drink myself until I realized that these boys were literally only 1/2 a year older than my second youngest brother, Francis. Francis is a 17 & 1/2 year-old boy whom I still call “cutie”…. whom I still picture as a little boy, whose diapers I changed...for whom I babysat when he was only one week old. He is presently about 4 inches taller than I and a junior in high school. See the carefree cutie below:
It was hard for me to relate to these 18 year old boys…. fresh to the island, never been away from their families. (And I’M the one who needs a drink?!) I have 6 brothers… you’d think I’d be at ease with them. With my own brothers (ages 14-23) I dance a fine line between irritating, irrelevant older sister and cool, been-there-done-that aunt (the latter is probably just my own deluded self-perception). So I went with the cool, "Aunt-Barb" vibe and regaled them with stories of escapades in Tijuana, Polar-Bear jumps into freezing New Hampshire lakes, bonfires and Homecoming Carnivals. Okay, perhaps these impressionable "yutes" were not the best audience for those stories, but I definitely convinced a few guys that college life was worth looking into. Perhaps if the GI Bill paid for more than 60% of a public college education these days...and if they had the time and means to while away the best years of their lives on sunny San Diego campuses, they would have taken me seriously. They come from a very different paradigm than I or my fortunate brothers do.