Do you remember where you were, when it happened?
What you were doing, how it felt?
When you figured out that you were going to grow up?
When we’re kids, we know, in an existential kind of way, that we’ll be adults. One day. In the far off, hazy, inconceivable future. Grown-ups start, as soon as we can understand language, asking us “What are you going to be when you grow up?” The marks on the kitchen doorjamb let us know we’re getting taller. The signs are all there.
But did you have a moment, one crystallizing moment, when you realized it would be happening to you?
For me, it was late August 1981.
One year of school under my belt, about to start another one. The Sears Christmas Wish Book used to come in the mail, every August. That year, through some bit of good luck/maneuvering, I got to the catalogue before my sister. I took it out onto the front step, savoring every page of potential. Even though I wouldn’t get 99 and 3/4 percent of what was on my list, I could suspend the disbelief and just enjoy.
“You know, one day, you’re going to be a grown-up. And you won’t even like toys.”
I actually looked over my shoulder, to see who had come to ruin my life. But no one was there. It was me. I’d said it to myself.
And I knew that “I” was right.
I was on borrowed time, here. And there was nothing I could do, really. I could hold on by my fingernails, sleep with a doll into teenagerhood. But it wouldn’t help. Time was going to come for me.
I think I watched my son have his moment, yesterday.
We trekked all the way through the zoo. Past the red pandas, not stopping for the zebras, barely giving the elephant a glance.
Headed for the pony rides.
And as we walked up to the gates, there was something I’d never really noticed before: the height line.
The “If you are above this height, we assume you are at least a small grown-up, whose weight will crush our ponies in a most unsettling display ” line.
Even from a few feet away, I could tell he wasn’t going to make it. He took his hat off, thinking it might help.
“Slouch, kid!”, yells a man behind us.
My son’s face turns red. He’s holding back tears. He looks like he’s been punched in the gut. He joins me on the fence, while we wait for his smaller sister’s turn on the pony to be over.
“You okay, buddy?”
“Yeah. I just…thought I’d have more time.”