When I was a kid, we lived in a twin home in the suburbs of Philadelphia. Our next door neighbors were a young couple named Mike and Laura. Now, I recognize them as a young, newly married couple. To my six-year-old-self of 1994, they were grown-ups. Nice grown-ups, but still grown-ups.
I remember that Laura loved frogs, and had little stone frog statues all over her yard. Whenever she would come outside I would run into their half of the yard and count them, and ask her if I was right, and ask her if she had frogs inside her house too. One day she invited me inside, and I ran through their house, counting frogs. When my mom realized where I was, she told me it was fine to talk to Mike and Laura, but not to become a nuisance. I couldn’t see how I was possibly being a nuisance. Mike and Laura were my friends. Mike and Laura thought I was fun. Mike and Laura loved hanging out with me.
Twenty-some years later, and I stand in my own yard, with my own husband, talking to the three kids next door. They’re sweet kids. They’re also kind of obsessed with our dog. (Though with a face like hers, who wouldn’t be obsessed with our dog?)
Every time she is outside in our backyard they yell from their trampoline, “Hi Colette!” and ask to give her treats, pet her through the fence, and throw a ball to her. It doesn’t bother me. I like that they like her, that they’re comfortable talking to us, and that my dog gets loving attention from some very nice kids.
But what I realized, with a frightening start yesterday as I made dinner, listening to the kids play with Colette in the backyard with my husband, was that I have become Laura. Without even realizing it, I have grown from that seven-year old kid counting frogs and bothering my grown-up, newlywed neighbors to the newlywed neighbor of three kids who just wanted to play with their grown-up neighbors’ puppy.
I am the grown-up neighbor. We are Mike and Laura.
It’s funny how we don’t notice it happening. I know that we do, in a sense, but it happens so slowly, we don’t realize what’s happening until one day it hits that we’re not growing up anymore, but we’re grown. And we realize, then, as grown, adult people, what myths we held about adults before. The world we understand grows with us; always, we fit and understand just enough world to make us feel small and insignificant. As a child, the world felt so big, but as an adult, I realize how much bigger it really is. What will I learn in the next thirty years? Will my world grow yet again to be twice as big as I know it to be now? Will my perception of what it means to be sixty change from what it is now? I don’t doubt it. I hope it does.
We talk about the wonder of children, and the loss of it as adults. I disagree. I am still filled with wonder as an adult. My wonder is different, now, though, as I see the world and the people in it from a different perspective.