Being an Adult…

October 7, 2011 in Blog, Conversations with Isobel

Being an adult basically sucks. This is a thought that could have occurred to me when I realized that I couldn’t get up off the floor because evidently, my atrophied core muscles now pinch at my spine when I do such mundane things like – reach down to pick up a piece of paper. Or it could’ve been the discovery of more grey hairs than I can count. Or maybe that frightening experience of catching myself in the car’s rear view mirror and thinking an old woman is carjacking me but then realizing that it’s just the contours of my face that have taken some new and unfamiliar sharp turns. It could have been any of those discoveries that, while I wasn’t paying attention, prove that I have gotten old. But that wasn’t it. It wasn’t the physical metamorphosis at all.

I had taken Isobel to the ‘outdoor mall’ after school. I wanted to stop at the fancy kitchen wares store to find some bento boxes and cutting utensils so I could fill up my apparent free time (this sarcasm is provided at no additional charge) with decorative lunch making instead of the daily PB&J, cheese stick, and strawberries. Isobel and I wandered through the store fruitlessly, all the while exchanging such dialog as “look at this!” followed by a medley of “be careful, don’t touch that, that’s fragile,” and “how about holding my hand?” After a little while, Isobel said, “I don’t really like this store.” My search for garnishing tools was unsuccessful anyway so we went to Panera for a cookie and a drink.

Sitting at the big table enjoying our American Bourgeois version of tea and crumpets, Isobel said wistfully, “Mommy, can we do just one more thing at the mall before we go home?” I asked her what she wanted to do and she didn’t know or really care, she just didn’t want to go home yet (which I decided to take to mean she wanted our little date to go on forever) so I asked her if she wanted to take a walk over and put a coin in the wishing fountain. This was apparently the perfect suggestion.

Isobel and her stuffed dolphin, Feathers, and I headed out towards our usual fountain. Just before reaching it, we came across a new (to us – it may have been there for years and we just hadn’t noticed), smaller fountain – the sort where water pours from the mouth of a Lion’s head into a stone and mortar reservoir. Classy. Isobel struggled to decide which fountain to beseech but I solved that by suggesting I might have TWO coins in my purse and she could make a wish at each fountain. Honestly, my giving spirit has no end.

I fished for change in my purse. Isobel saw me disregard several quarters looking for something of a smaller denomination. “Wait – there’s one!” She said pointing to the quarter. I quickly reworded the thought that went like “I don’t want to waste 50 cents when I could just waste 2” to “I’m pretty sure I have some nice shiny pennies in here somewhere.” And I did. I offered one to her and she all but tripped over her own feet getting to the fountain (there was another little girl headed there and I guess there’s some competition for wishing when you’re less than 5 years old). Then she came back to me, sort of quietly commented on what the other little girl was doing wrong (she was, in fact, working on making a withdrawal) and then I pointed her to the other fountain.

I wanted to give her some privacy in this. She didn’t want me to hear what she was wishing for. But I was watching her from a distance, you know, to make sure no one came up and snatched her up, or in case she tripped on the cobblestone… I was supervising because I care about her safety. I watched as she clutched the penny tightly in both hands, held against her heart. She shut her eyes so tightly it required engaging her smile muscles. Isobel, I’m afraid, completely lacks an inner monologue, so I watched as she muttered her wish with a breathy whisper. I couldn’t hear it. I assume it had something to do with more toys or a smurf movie or unicorns. I rolled my eyes at the thought of whatever ridiculously frivolous wish she was making over there. Then she tossed in the penny and watched it sink to the bottom. She waited there, for a second, in reverence. And then she looked completely satisfied. And that’s when I realized it. Being an adult basically sucks.

I couldn’t tell you when I stopped seeing a toss into a wishing well as an investment rather than a loss. I couldn’t tell you when I stopped believing I could wish a unicorn into being. But at some point, a wish for a unicorn turned into a wish for a particular catalog item and then a wish for love and kindness to heal the hurt, and then I was out of wishes and, with it, hope. I can’t remember when I stopped seeing all the possibilities for greatness and replaced it with fears of failure and rejection and injury. What a sad realization that being an adult required giving up so much joy.

Isobel skipped towards me and reached for my hand. “I’m not going to tell you what my wish was.” I almost told her not to hold her breath for wishes… but I stopped myself. Instead, she said, “sometimes wishes don’t come true.” It was slow and quiet, as if she was speaking to herself, preparing herself for disappointment already! What have I done to her? And so I squeezed her little hand and said, “sometimes they do,” thanking her for what she’s done to me.

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