Sunday, 5 September 2010

When Do We Really Grow Up?

I suppose there are a lot of people out there who just assume they are adults, that they have reached the line of maturity that labels one as an adult, not a child, not an adolescent. And by far, being an adolescent, real or imagined, is the worst.

I never liked being a child. I never liked the company of children to adults, ever. But as a child, physically, most people are reluctant to treat children as anything other than children. But I have always developed attachments to people who appreciated the adult waiting inside, the adult that somehow - at age 42 - I seem to consistently misplace.

I always liked Harry, my father. Harry is my biological father and while he missed out on a lot of things, I have to wonder if he really did. I know all people have their regrets, but would having to deal with the child me and worse, the adolescent me, be regrettable? Ask my parents, Ray and Ma, if that is true. I suspect they'd have been just as happy to miss that - those - bullets. Harry's missing that and not missing it in and of himself doesn't make him any less a parent, but it makes him a parent who had it much easier than Ray and Ma.

And unwittingly, he has found the years-old resentment that lives in the most adult people when a person who should have figured so largely, missed so much. I think when I found him in 2008, we both suddenly faced a new situation - and all that came with it - without thinking of the old wounds. But I have been online and writing a long time. Those old wounds are still out in cyberspace and still hurtful. And so there is that, as well as so many other more current (and undoubtedly less current) events that lead me to muse aloud about the status of adult that is conferred to all when we reach physical maturity.

I hate to say it, but I despair constantly of ever reaching that. At the same time, however, most people I know who professed to have reached are in every way possible stuck. Stuck physically, stuck emotionally, stuck intellectually. I'd rather be asking the question and living as though there is more to learn rather than to think I have all the answers or have completed the growing process. The one and only time I will have stopped learning, stopped growing, won't be because I have somehow attained all that "wisdom", it will be due to my physical body having died.

Not a fun thought, but a part of life, just as is birth.

People tend to forget - or never know - that death is not its own separate thing, it is the next stage in life. It is part of life. When I feel sad or cry for someone who stopped living, am I crying because they are gone? Not as much as I am, in my flawed, selfish, human way, that this person is not here for me. How to explain that? More often I cry for that as well as for other survivors. Because their pain is a real, palpable, living thing and crying, for whatever reason, is cathartic for all of those feelings.

But at the heart of everything is the feeling that I know more intellectually now than ever, but still have the insecurity of any child. It is not a feeling I enjoy.

When I was seven, I wanted to be an adult.

When I was twelve my ambitions were simpler: I wanted to be a woman. I was so hoping I would reach the next birthday and at some magical point in the night, *Poof*, I'd wake up with curves. With breasts. With hair in all the right places (except the armpits, which was more scary than any other hair, because I was not into the idea of shaving. I know, right? A teensy bit unrealistic...). With the sudden knowledge of the world that surely all adults must have.

At age 16, on my birthday, I lay awake waiting for the magical change to happen. Is it only me who did that? Unlikely - just the mathematics and odds of being the only person ever in human history to have that thought works against me. And yet, how often STILL do I have conversations with others and say, "Wow! Thank you. I kept thinking I'm the only one to think this!" It is really a relief to know that I am not the only person in the world, small though it is, to think something.

At the same time as wondering why some ineffable magic did not take place on my sixteenth birthday, I knew I was one hundred times smarter than my stupid, clueless parents - who of course had to suffer through that just as their parents did when they were in that age range. As Mark Twain once said, "At seventeen I knew more than my father did. By the time I was 24, I was surprised at how much the old man had learned."

It's tough not to love Samuel Clemens.

(I took a break to go to the loo. It happens. In the midst of waxing philosophical about not feeling like an adult, I read how Paris Hilton was arrested for possession of cocaine - how 80s - and first she told the arresting officer that the purse he found the narcotic in wasn't hers and oh, hey, she thought it was gum! Has cocaine changed that much since I last knew of it? Isn't it still a powder? What the hell? Maybe I'm hoping for a glimpse into adulthood... but Paris Hilton should be hoping for a brain. Or maybe just a handful of brain cells. Anything.)

It's the next day, just after noon. I had to go across the street to the squad house last night for back-up standby at the Boonton Fireworks. The fireworks were a bit of a let down - the show was short, but that is generally the case. What was substandard was the timing and the music. The music was all over-the-top stirring patriotic themes (I don't have anything against that kind of music but the tempo was too fast and it was a little too much). And then the timing... the operator or shooter or whatever the person is called who actually sets the rockets off was off for timing. There would be a boom of the last shell that was activated and then there was ten to twenty seconds of dead silence before the percussive sound of the next shell detonating was heard. You are likely sitting there thinking what kind of fusspot am I to quibble over ten to twenty seconds but in terms of timing for fireworks, that is a long time.

Lucy (the lieutenant on Sunday night) mentioned that the fireworks were not shot on the school field, because new turf had been laid down. A week prior to school opening, the school did not want shell casings left on their nice new turf. So where, you ask most reasonably, were the fireworks done? From the roof of the school. My first thought was wouldn't it be ironic if a stray spark set the school ablaze a week before opening. (Of course this is the Boonton Township Labor Day celebration, all hosted by the Boonton Fire Districts. And also Parsippany's Districts 4 and 5 were there as we are mutual aid for Boonton. So was Car 66 (my squad) and Car 65 comes to this event, although they are behind us in line for mutual aid, being on the farthest side of Parsippany from Boonton.

Well, maybe I'd have let it go at the fireworks being set off from the roof of the high school but it turns out that the Boonton HS has solar panels. (Just because our house has solar panels doesn't mean I know all the other edifices with the same. And I am rarely if ever in Boonton.) But I was completely incensed that they set off the fireworks on top of the solar panels - to save the new turf?! It's one thing to be protective of turf on a golf course or a professional level football field but to do this on top of solar paneling?! NO. That paneling costs far more than turf. And this is high school football, not college or professional football. Someone's mixed up the priority of what is more costly to repair if something goes wrong.

Anyway, at this point I have long since gotten sidetracked from writing about my journey of attempting to grow up, so with those words, I shall close this post.

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