My grandma has a picture wall at her house. The focal point is a large framed piece of embroidery with every grandchild's name down to my older brother. Around it, organized by family, are frames with each grandchild. Every year for Christmas we would give Grandma, among other things, a 4x6 copy of that years school photo to update her frames. For the past two years Graduating Senior Erica has been smiling her most attractive yearbook smile of all time, her right bra strap slightly peering out from the red half-shirt donned for the rite of passage that is Senior Photo Day. I've watched my elder cousins' photos change as they mature, and become a picture of an engaged couple, a married couple, a couple with a child, a couple with three children. I've watched them each make an advancement in life, whether that be marriage, childbirth, or the donning of a Marine uniform. And in one case, today, I made note of the missionary.
There's an unfortunate folly in my family, in that one of my dad's brothers never really managed to get to family party's much with his wife. And kids. To all of my cousins I'm at least five years younger, if not a substantial amount more, or at minimum five years older. Except for two of them. But we hardly know each other, and it's one of those things that, at least for me, is too awkward now to breach any gap. One is two years older than me, or so. I can't give definites because, frankly, I don't know. The other, a boy, is 18 days my senior. Recipe for a best-friend cousin, right?
He's been on a mission to Detroit for about a year now, more or less, and his picture on the wall is a smiling blonde in a suit before some trees.
I looked at the picture today, noticing the different quality of photo when comparing his to the studio shot pictures of his siblings, and I looked back at my own. And my mind flashed to all the pictures coming up on Facebook of my female missionary friends having pre-mission pictures taken, out in the woods wearing dresses with a namebadge, holding a Book of Mormon in whichever language they'll be speaking, and I wanted my picture to change. I'm excited for the moment my tenderhearted grandma can put a female missionary in her frame, probably crying the whole time because nowadays you can just smile at her and she'll well up. I imaged the two of us, these would-have-could-have-should-have-been best friend cousins both out serving Jesus in their Sunday best.
It's become part of my heart beat. I see girls in tights or skirts walking on campus and think to myself if those would suit the modesty standards required of a missionary. I help a friend with her mic backstage at the musical and she warns me she's wearing her "Jesus jammies," and I think about what I'll need to change in my wardrobe once I'm endowed. I have discussions with non-Mormon or ex-Mormon friends and tell them openly how I feel about my choices and my beliefs, and try to figure out how to turn that from casual conversation into moments of testimony baring. It crops into my mind every once in a while that I'm going on a mission and I get all excited. Everything seems to say it's time, it's right, unless I start looking for reasons it shouldn't be. But I remind myself there's more pro than con, there's more good than bad. I've wanted an adventure my whole life. I've wanted to shed these mountains and take wing. I have an opportunity. I intend to take it.