From the Archives: On Growing Up.

When I was little, one half the size I am now, I had a mushroom-cap haircut. I looked like Toad, sans the red spots. Mom now sighs fondly when my siblings and I recall my Flowbee/Bowl Cut hybrid hair. She always squeals that the offending hair phase was so cuuuuuuute, it was a Dorothy Hamill! as I sit, frozen to the spot, a mixture of horror and amusement on my face. I wonder if mothers take an oath to consciously subject their children to disgusting haircuts between the ages of seven and fourteen. . . .

At any rate, I think I was in the early-Hamill stage in life when I realized one afternoon, between chores with Dad and nap time, that I didn’t want to grow up. I remember standing in the laundry room while Mom folded laundry from the dryer, thinking very hard about how to stop the aging process. I always liked to be around when the laundry was done, because the dryer was like a magic box from which I could pull soft, warm items. The dryer never ceased to fascinate me, because somehow, my wet socks always came out delightfully fluffed and perfect for pulling over my hands. With my sock hands, I’d wait for Mom to finish folding, or until the warmth disappeared and I was left with cold socks on my hands, feeling un-special again.

On this particular day, though, I didn’t lurch for the first pair of socks that I saw, even though Dad’s knee socks were the first out of the dryer. I was completely distraught. I can’t call to mind the initial source of my angst, but I can still recall the panicked feeling I had: my tongue was heavy and my tear ducts felt like water balloons, capable of bursting at the slightest impact.

I asked Mom about growing up. Do I have to get older? I pouted. I don’t want to grow up. I remember being rooted to the spot, my feet warming the cool floor of our unfinished basement. My chin quivered of its own accord, though I’ll be damned if I didn’t try to tame it. And then, with no warning, the floodgates burst open and tears spilled over my round cheeks, hot and angry. I feared growing up; I feared becoming an adult; I feared the responsibilities that came with age, like paying the bills (what are those things anyway?), making dinner, going to work, developing wrinkles and sunspots and that old-person smell.

I don’t know for sure how old I was, but I’m willing to bet I was only seven or eight. Not nearly old enough to be concerned about anything other than whether Mom had remembered to get ketchup for the hot dogs or whether I’d use aquamarine or bubblegum pink ribbons in my next tap routine. Maybe I had overheard Mom yelling MIKE! Did you mail the water bill on Tuesday? and his responding Shhhhhhoot!, followed by some chaotic, exasperated shuffling of papers. Or perhaps this mental breakdown was a result of a recent tap recital at a local nursing home. Every time we went to a nursing home, my insides shriveled and my Imagination would hide beneath a rock. Ladies would drag me to their bosoms for a hug, and I, dressed in sequins and spandex, would cringe at their see-through skin and the dark hairs that protruded from their moles. Nursing homes scared the shit out of me.

Whatever the cause was, the effect was definitely overwhelming. And as I’ve grown that dreadful Older, my fear of bills and taxes (I still have no idea how to do my taxes, thanks to my real sweet mum and a tax-savvy husband), and cooking for two, and driving at night has — for the most part — subsided. Sometimes, I still feel that uncomfortable feeling well up somewhere deep inside my stomach; the fear of not knowing what the future holds for me. But instead of curling up in my mother’s arms, I let myself get a little excited about growing up. I let myself look forward to laugh lines and sun spots, to the challenges of being a mother to a little girl who doesn’t want to ever stop being her daddy’s little chore helper. I wait with starry-eyed anticipation for Life to lead me by the hand to my next challenge, and, if necessary, I’ll toss a pair of socks in the dryer and grow another ten minutes older, waiting for Old Times’ Sake.

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