There are moments scattered throughout the days when a child pipes a question that stops breath mid-lung, that pauses the hands busy with nonessentials, that stills the soul with the piercing understanding that “the next ten words out of my mouth may be the most important I utter all day.”
Sometimes these moments happen on long car rides as you’re driving past the weekend-empty Goodyear buildings of downtown Akron. Sometimes these moments come spliced into a conversation about cell phone networks. Sometimes these moments blindside you before you have an answer tucked accessible in a handy cupboard of the mind.
“Mommy? What happens on the day before you grow up?”
Just like that, I want to write a novel in response to that question. A glorious novel full of skinned knees and fireflies and s’mores and sledding and nose-picking and skateboards and doll houses and oreos and mermaids and leaf piles and blanket forts and puppets and swings and suntans and caterpillars and constellations and consternations and hopes that spring buoyant heavenward and dreams that fizz at the edges and joy that erupts unbidden over tender small things. I want to write a novel about a day that never runs out of steam at 11:59:59 pm.
Is there a day before we grow up? If we could go back to that day, what would we do with ourselves, if our soul foresaw what happened at midnight?
In the profound seconds of silence following Little Friend’s question, the thoughts normally buzzing about my head quietly floated to the edges of the room, holding their breath in expectation for what shining star would assume center stage. Instead of a direct answer to the question, I found the child parts of myself rebelling at the premise. Do we ever really and truly have to grow up? I know it can happen. I know for some people adulthood can completely eclipse childhood. But does there have to, by necessity of “that’s life”, have to be a day before we grow up? The skinned-knee, firefly catching, Oreo dunking parts of me stomped their feet with some petulance, and I replied–
–“Well. Actually. I think even when we are grown ups, we can still be kids.”
Silence from the back seat. I hadn’t proven my point yet.
–“I can think of some ways you can stay young even when you’re grown up. Do you want to hear some?”
Yes. She most certainly did.
–“When you’re a grown up, you can still laugh at funny jokes. You can still swing on swings and play on playgrounds. You can stay young if you do things like stop to look at leaves growing out of tree trunks and follow caterpillars on sidewalks and pick flowers just because. You can still play pretend things and read fun books. You can dress up in silly clothes. You can laugh at funny words. Sometimes being grown up is a mix of growing up and staying young, so there doesn’t have a to be a day before you’re entirely grown up. I think you can choose to stay young, if you try hard.”
She likes the idea of adulthood swinging. She likes Peter Pan.
I think she has a soul that will find a way to grow young.
Weeks after this conversation took place, I still find my thoughts settling back on the disquieting question. I may have contented her with my response, but my inner child still prods at me for a thorough examination: What happens on the day before we grow up?
Other 31 Days of Quotes to Inspire posts:
October 1: Tell Me, Show Me, So What?