At what moment do we enter adulthood? Is it the day we turn 18, that moment we blow out the candles and can legally vote and get into night clubs? Or is it when we suddenly realize we are, in fact, too old to go to said night clubs? An 18-year-old may be a “legal” adult, but isn’t 18 technically still a teenager? I felt like more of an adult when I turned 20 than when I turned 18… but age is just a number. They say, “you’re only as old as you feel.”
Well, sometimes I feel six, so…
“You’ve been adulting since you were two,” my mother informs me as she washes the dishes, her eyes fixated on the plate in her soapy hands.
“What do you mean?” I ask. I reach for a towel to dry.
“You were holding the ladder for your dad before you could even walk straight,” she chuckles.
Indeed, I was. In reflection of this revelation, adulting = responsibility? If this is the case, I have been adulting since I was two. From holding the ladder steady for my dad as he changed light bulbs, to guiding my aunt through Home Depot at age 3, to hording food behind the couch, just in case.
Because an adult is always prepared for the apocalypse.
One of my first words was “decoration.”
If this does not put my family into perspective for you, I’m not sure how else I can put this. There I was, barely two, yelling at my Granny as she touched a statue on the mantle.
“Granny! No touch. Decoration.”
At two-and-a-half, my sister arrived. This is my earliest memory…and I think that’s because it had such a profound impact upon my life. Everything shifted, and even at age two, I knew I was just given the most important job in the universe.
I remember my father coming through the front door one afternoon. I remember him asking if I wanted to go see her.
I said yeah.
I do not recall the car ride to the hospital. I can’t picture arriving nor walking through the antiseptic halls. But I do recollect stepping into that room. It was dim and quiet, and I could feel the air change as I waddled in. I don’t remember saying hi.
“Can I hold her?” I asked. I was set into the rocking chair and my tiny sister was placed into my toddler arms.
She had a mess of dark brown hair, and her ears were abnormally large. I think I remember this moment, toddler me, staring into my sister’s brown eyes for the first time, because that was the moment I was forever changed. Something altered inside me…clicked, maybe…
It wasn’t just “me” anymore.
It would forever be Sarah and me, and that made me an adult.
Until I got bored of her and decided I was adult enough for a pet.
The sun peeked out from behind the over-protective clouds, shining its smiling face upon Ohio. The wind blew gently, ruffling my curls as I stood impatiently in my driveway, waiting anxiously for a green car to turn my way. I sighed.
Where are they?
Soon my legs grew tired and I plopped upon the concrete, my arms stubbornly crossed over my chest. The wind whipped across the earth again, pushing my brown locks into my eyes. I agitatedly flicked them back; my view could not be obstructed.
The sound of singing grasshoppers echoed in my ears and the sweet smell of flowers and grass filled my nostrils. I began to fidget, and checked my imaginary watch, making noises of disgust at the time of day. My thoughts lingered from the driveway into my room, and I stood abruptly, hurrying through the garage door and into the house. I tore spastically up the stairs and burst into my pink room, bustling over to my dresser. A small wooden jewelry box sat dead center. I caught my breath, my cheeks rosy, and peaked inside. I smiled, content, and carefully resealed the box, double checking that nothing could escape.
The sound of my purple light-up sneakers hitting the driveway echoed off the garage door as I returned to my post outside in the warm summer air. I sat again and groaned. I flopped back, lying flat, and stared at the sky. It fascinated me; it seemed to go on forever. I smiled at the thought and wondered what would happen if God just peaked his head out of the white fluffy cloud that lazily floated by, careful not to cross the path of the sun. I imagined it happening, and absently waved above me.
I heard the rumble of a car’s engine and my large brown eyes widened in excitement and realization. I heard tires against pavement as the vehicle grew closer. I smelled gasoline and knew there was no mistaking.
They were finally here!
“There’s my princess!”
“Grandpa!” I cascaded into his arms and he gave me a big kiss on my cheek; it was prickly, and I giggled. His graying mustache had sat above his lips as long as I could remember.
“Hi Granny!” I leapt from Grandpa’s arms and ran to embrace Granny. I hugged her tightly and thought how wonderful and lucky it was to have both a Grandma and a Granny. I stared up at Granny’s face; pale but beautiful, and her make-up perfectly placed. Granny characteristically had a light brown, bouffant hair-do.
“How are you, Little Girl?” my grandparents asked as the rest of the family came to greet our visitors. Mom kissed them both, holding baby sister tightly in her arms, while Dad shook hands.
Conversation took off in the driveway, and I found impatience creeping into my skin once more. I tapped my foot and caught myself glancing at that imaginary watch again. I bit her lower lip. I tried to be patient and let the grown-ups talk, but anxiety filled me to the brim. I tugged on Granny’s rose-pink shirt.
“What-y?” She looked down at me and smiled warmly.
My voice dropped to a whisper. “Come quick! There’s something I got to show you!” I stole a glance at my parents, hoping my secret was still safe. Once I was certain I was unheard, I hastily took Granny’s hand and pulled her inside. Then I broke into a gallop up the carpeted stairs.
“Hurry up, Granny! It’s important!” I made it into the room first and placed a hand protectively upon the wooden jewelry box. Granny soon joined me and stood next to me.
“It’s a secret, Granny. You can’t tell Mom and Dad. Promise?”
“I promise,” Granny replied, bending down to see my excited face. I slowly opened the jewelry box, glancing at the door to make sure we had not been followed. Then I stepped back so Granny could see my secret clearly. Inside, amongst the tangles of beads and stick-on earrings, sat a scarlet Ladybug. It was sweetly dotted with several black spots and did not move. Granny smiled to herself, and I now know that is because she realized the bug was dead. She gasped over-excitedly.
“Oooo,” she whispered, knowing this was a big deal for me.
“It’s my pet. But you can’t tell Mommy or Daddy, because they’ll make me get rid of it, okay?”
“I won’t tell,” Granny said, kissing my forehead. “This is an awfully big secret.”
Granny left the room, leaving me to carefully mind my pet. She rejoined the adults in the kitchen, where I heard her say in a hushed tone,
“I think it’s time for a pet.”
First pets are a huge responsibility for a child, and it brings out a level of adult within them. Can a three-year-old with a ladybug or a six-year-old with a puppy adult? If you consider the super-complex equation adult = responsibility, then yes, I believe so.
When I turned six, my parents took me to the mall to get my ears pierced, and I’ve been the coolest thing since sliced bread from that moment on. I used to think the gold bulbs in my earlobes made me look so grown up, and I’d act the part. I was a six-year-old adult with pierced ears and a pet, strutting her stuff.
Fast forward twelve years and I’d be in a sketchy tattoo parlor in Grand Rapids getting my naval and tragus pierced simultaneously (the tragus hurt way more than my bellybutton). For some reason, so many of us feel as though tattoos and piercings are a rite of passage. Turning eighteen is the official entrance into legal adulthood, and if it’s not a voting year, the only other thing we can do as new adults is run and get something pierced! The truth is, they didn’t make me feel like any more of an adult like I had hoped.
Just more of a badass.
Through the birth of a sibling, pets, and piercings, I think I turned out okay. My parents gave me a considerably solid idea of what an adult is, and now that I am officially in adulthood, I can take it and run (probably into a wall… and that wouldn’t be the first wall I’ve run into).