I got mild whiplash that day on the playground when my best friend Barbara looked me square in the eye and said, “I wish I was you!”
We were both five years old; I did not know her comment was grammatically incorrect (my mother would have said Barbara was using “subjective mode contrary to text”).
I said, “Huh?”
“I mean it,” she said. “Your life is better. I want to live your life.”
She went on to say she was sick of her three-year-old twin brothers hogging all of her mama’s time. Because I was an only child, she knew I got a whole lot more attention than she did. She also said my mama was really sweet and probably never yelled. Barbara said everything at her house was noisy while everything at my house was quiet.
“And,” she added, “your daddy makes me laugh. I love to laugh, but nobody laughs at my house.”
I lapsed into a deep think. It was true my house was very quiet, but in my opinion that wasn’t always a good thing. I had always wanted siblings to play with even if they were noisy. Sometimes I was lonely.
I liked Barbara’s mother well enough, but her father was hardly ever home, so I didn’t have a real sense of him except that he always wore bib overalls. I thought they were a poor fashion choice, but it didn’t mean I could never like him.
I whiplashed again when Barbara suggested we exchange lives; she would become Marilyn, and I would become Barbara. She would move into my house, and I would move into hers. Of course, we had to run this by our parents, and amazingly enough, they agreed.
We packed our meager belongings into little suitcases and exchange houses. This was a simple action since we lived across the street from each other.
The minute I arrived and became Barbara, I loved it. The twins were adorable and tons of fun and obviously thought I was a far better sister than Barbara. Everything was great… until bedtime.
I had not known Barbara and the twins shared a bedroom. The twins fussed, cried, demanded more and longer drinks of water, and climbed out of bed, refusing to get back in until Barbara’s mother yelled, “Enough!” and threw the boys in bed, stomped out, and slammed the door.
I was stunned. Being Barbara at bedtime was not the peace-producing experience it was at my house, where my mother always read me a Bible story before bed. Then she would pray out loud and thank Jesus for always being with me.
That night I crawled out of Barbara’s bed and walked quietly into the kitchen where Mrs. Pederson was doing dishes. It took her a while to notice me, but when she did she said, “What do you want, Mar – I mean Barbara?”
I asked her if maybe she could read me a story or something. Her response was, “Honey, I don’t have time to read anything; just tell yourself a story.”
The next morning Barbara and I decided to move back into our own houses. She wasn’t used to the Bible story and prayer before bed. She didn’t like the story and thought it was spooky to close your eyes and talk to someone you couldn’t see. Barbara was afraid that Jesus, whoever he was, might be hiding in the closet and would pop out when my mother left the room.
Barbara had been sure she’d experience more contentment at my house; instead, she had less. At five years old, we were both too young to know contentment is an inside job and that changing our circumstances, or rejecting who we are in the hope of living someone else’s life, doesn’t work.
Reprinted by permission. Constantly Craving by Marilyn Meberg. Copyright ©2012 by Marilyn Meberg. Thomas Nelson Inc. Nashville, Tennessee. All rights reserved. Marilyn joins James and Betty on LIFE TODAY this Thursday.