I turned 39 this summer. I have an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old. I drive an SUV, own a house, have been married 13 years and have a graduate degree. It's pretty hard to deny that I'm an adult. I'm constantly surprised, however, by what it takes to make me feel like a grown up.
Some of the realization comes in the Big Moments.
This past summer, I sat at the funeral of my last grandparent and felt the ferris wheel hitch forward and the car I'm sitting in lurch closer to the top. I have watched friends lose both parents and pregnancies. I've seen the way illness and misfortune -- mostly in the shape of cancer, in my life -- can strike suddenly, shockingly, and leave everyone who witnesses it reeling.
But, truthfully, a lot of the "a-has" happen in the Small Moments.
It is the night I went out to dinner with a friend and learned that her husband had forgotten the stickers with which her son was supposed to make Valentine's for his class in Vermont. It was February 13. We drove by my house on the way home and I ran upstairs to gather up all of our leftover stickers and brought them down to her.
It is the ease with which I cook for my children now, and way I feel my own mother's hands guiding my own as I move casually around the kitchen.
It is the quiet hum inside the car when Matt, Grace, Whit and I are driving, after dinner, to New Hampshire to ski with friends and I realize that everything I care about most in the world -- everything I truly need -- is in this darkened car.
It is reading the alumni magazines of my high school, college and business school classes and noticing what my peers are doing: CEOs and Congressmen and heads of departments at hospitals. It is taking my daughter, with a broken collarbone, to see an orthopedist who is the younger brother of a friend from high school.
It is driving through Harvard Square on move-in day and wondering aloud to my husband that the college freshman are closer to our children's age than ours. It is his baffled response: "That has been true for a while now, Linds."
I suspect I'm not alone in this disbelief about my age. Is it too scary to accurately locate myself on life's ferris wheel? I write about that wheel all the time, about nearing the top, about how gorgeous the view is from here, about how I can see ahead and how quickly we'll descend. And I do believe that, and feel it -- fervently, truthfully, often. But at the same time, I struggle to accept that I am actually almost 40. I still think of my parents as 40; it was only five minutes ago that I ran around the backyard in a sundress while my handsome father, smiling under his brown mustache, gazed at his birthday windsurfer leaning against the wall of our house. How can that be almost 30 years ago?
What is this about? Is it stubborn denial? Do we all still think of ourselves as 18? The aches in my back, weakness in my knee and wrinkles on my face all speak to my actual age. As do the, you know, children. And yet. And still. In my head I'm always 18, dancing in the late-day sun amid a swirl of magnolias with the women who knew me then and still know me best.
Do you feel like a grown-up? Why or why not?