My favorite mistakes (or, advice to my younger self, the first 20 years)

Sheryl Crow’s (reputed) Eric Clapton version may be much more glamorous, but we’ve all had our glory moments in the mistake department. Here’s some I might warn my younger self to avoid, given a time machine or convenient wormhole.

1. Hey, 2-year-old Lolly — that trip to the grocery story, the one where you crossed the highway to get there? Not a good idea. You won’t even remember it later, though you will have vague memories of being spanked every few steps on the return walk home with Mommy. Guess you should be glad that teenage employee recognized you and called her.

2. Um, 3- thru 13-year-old Laura, yeah, she can make you. Mothers have that power. Life would be easier if you’d learn that now.

3. Listen up, 6-year-old: Your parents told you to stay off that big doghouse. After you fall off and land flat on your back, knocking your two front teeth out in the process, the worst thing won’t be all that blood and pain. It’ll be not having your teeth to leave under your pillow for the tooth fairy because you swallowed them. And no one will be willing to look for them — later.

4. OK, spoiled brat 10-year-old, you begged to take piano lessons. Dry up those crocodile tears over having to practice while everyone else is playing football. The tears will work and your parents will let you quit your lessons — and, no, you don’t have a future in professional football. I’ve come back 45 years later to tell you it’s still a men-only sport. You won’t even enjoy watching the pros, and you’ll be real sorry you’re not playing the piano.

5. Laura at 11, that tree limb will break. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. And don’t stay mad at Pam for laughing so hard. It will be pretty funny, and pretty miraculous that you aren’t hurt any worse. Your rear and your pride both survive just fine.

6. Laura and Kelly at 12, your moms are kidding. They really won’t do a duet of “You Are My Sunshine” on Tommy Trent’s Fun Barn. You don’t have to run away from home at all. But that is a cool hiding spot in the woods that you found.

7. Seventh- and eighth-grade Laura, you’ll be happy to know no one ever died of embarrassment. And probably nobody else even noticed.

8. Ninth- through 12-grade me, I’m glad you find school to be so much fun. But it wouldn’t kill you to do your homework.

9. Hey, dummy. In 30 years, it’s going to occur to you that one of the best careers for you would’ve been rock DJ. When your aunt and uncle beg you to come spend summers with them to work at their radio station, DO IT!! So what if it’s AM country — it’s experience. There’s a swimming pool in Sullivan, Mo., and the boy you couldn’t bear to leave? His mom will make you break up during your junior year because you’re not Catholic. (At least you’ll stay good friends to the end.)

10. That super-talented red-headed guy you meet at 16? He’s going to break your heart after a few years. Go ahead and fall for him; it’s well worth it. Just know you’ll survive the heartache, and, yes, you will love again.

11. You know, it wouldn’t kill you to actually open the math and science portions of the ACT booklet. You might know some of the answers and do a little better. Then again, drawing an X on one answer sheet and a diamond on the other gets you 49 and 51 percent for those sections, so maybe not. (See #8.)

12. College isn’t cheap. Get up and go to class! When you have to pay for it yourself in a few years, you’ll make straight A’s. Why can’t you do that now?

13. That moody older Vietnam vet? You need to run when he suggests marriage. He’ll be mean and treat you badly for many years. Know that and survive, because you have to go through with it. That’s how you get your two wonderful kids, the lights of your life — and your precious grandchildren. Hang tough. Don’t turn bitter. But that time you left with one kid in your arms and one in the oven? Staying gone might be the smarter thing to do.

14. And little Lolly through know-it-all teen? Your dad? Talk to him more. He’s an introvert with a lot on his mind, but he loves you and you love him. He’ll be gone by the time you’re 26 — a tragic death — and you’ll miss talking to him. Forever.

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