Monday, September 23, 2013

Looking for Peter Pan

All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!’ This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.” 

This post is specifically for any teenager who may read this.  Because, I know how it is, I once was like you.  I know that you long for the time when you're an adult and believe you'll have the freedom to do what you want.  I just want to tell you what you'll eventually learn on your own anyway:  don't be in such a hurry to grow up and away.  Being an adult sucks.

From as early as middle school I would be out in the courtyard with my friends and watch the cars driving to and from on Main Street with a sense of envy.  There were all those adults going where they wanted and doing what they wanted.  I had no concept that in point of fact very few of the people behind the wheel were actually going where they wanted to.  Rather, they were going to and from work, maybe to appointments.  Some were running errands, but they'd probably rather be on the slopes or at home watching soap operas.  I had no idea that the reality for most of those people was that they were looking over at us as they drove by, yearning for the days when their lives had been so carefree.

However, I did catch a clue that being an adult had its drawbacks around tax season every year.  Dad would bring out all his records and spread them out on the dining room table and sort through them all to organize them for his accountant.  The process would take a few weeks every year, and it got a little worse after he became a real estate agent.  So about the time I was 13, I looked at the table, completely buried beneath receipts and legal pads full of lists and calculations and announced with conviction that I didn't want to become an adult because it seemed really complicated.  I remember the amused looks on my parents' faces when I proclaimed that.  I think they agreed with me.  Of course that sentiment didn't last.

Soon enough, I was dreaming of what it would be like to have my own place.  Whenever my dad told me to turn my music down or made me give up Mork and Mindy so he could watch some dumb old western, I would think to myself that when I lived on my own I could listen to whatever I wanted at 2:00 in the morning if I wanted to.  For some reason it didn't seem to occur to me that I would be too tired from working to be up very often at 2:00 in the morning, and if I was for some reason, I always had neighbors who wouldn't appreciate Tom Sawyer blaring full blast in the middle of the night.

I had these visions of what my dream house would look like - for the record, it was this spacious log cabin built right up against a mountainside, and I always had about five rough collies there - but I never pictured myself cleaning it or worrying over broken pipes or septic tanks backing up, or for that matter wondering how I would afford all of that (because I never really pictured myself with a significant other and assumed I would be a writer or some sort and work when I wanted to).  It's nice to have dreams and visions for yourself, but you have to ground them in reality and realize that it's not just going to get handed to you - you'll have to work for it somehow.

And then there's the whole relationship thing.  Granted, teenage love is full of drama and angst, which is exhausting and potentially painful.  But when you break-up with your high school sweetheart (or whatever it is you call yourselves these days), there aren't custody battles to deal with (hopefully) or lawyers involved (again, hopefully).  There may be some tears, and you may feel like your life is ending, but, trust me, it's so much easier to bounce back at 17.  For one thing, you're just more resilient, but also because there are more fish in the sea.  These days, the fish are all married.  Or their hairline is receding in pace with their waistline growing.  Or both.  Most likely both.  And the men this age want women not too much older than you.  Not that I'm in the marketplace, but I'm no prize either.  There's the advancing grey hair to battle, the slowing metabolism and - you think you hate having periods? - try hot flashes and night sweats!

No, being an adult is not all it's cracked up to be.  And sometimes it's the most lonely state of being there is.

I got an email from a friend from home (real home, i.e. Montana) the other day telling me my long time next door neighbor had passed away.  I loved her growing up.  For lots of reasons - she always had Mars bars in her kitchen pantry, and her door was always unlocked so I could just wander over there and get one.  She let me play dress up with her tulle dresses from the 50's.  She gave me my first Rosary and took me to mass with her (I'm not Catholic - so it pissed my dad off something fierce, which secretly sort of thrilled me - my first little rebellion).  She taught me to listen to Irish music, and how to stand straight and hold my stomach in, and she had this wicked Irish sense of humor.  I was deeply saddened by her loss even though I hadn't actually seen her in literally decades.  I wanted my mom at that moment.  I wanted someone who knew her and I could share stories about the "good old days".  There was no one else in my life who also knew her except the woman who shared the news, and her hands are very full currently with caring for aging parents - she doesn't have time to babysit me as I work my way into acceptance.  Maybe more than a trip down memory lane I just wanted someone to give me a hug because I was sad.   But my mom is gone.  

But, alas, we all grow up.  It's inevitable and there's nothing we can do about it.  Just don't be in such a hurry to do it because sometimes, whether you're 5 or 50, you just want your mommy.

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