I’m proud to share I grew up some more this summer.
My favorite growing up moment happened about a month ago on a very ordinary August weekend in my current home of sunny Dutch Country, Pennsylvania.
A couple friend of mine threw a birthday bash for their one-year old, and my boyfriend Hans and I were invited.
Before we left for the park, the BF joked lightheartedly about his lack of relationship with the birthday boy.
“We don’t even know each other that well,” Hans sighed dramatically, hiding a silly smirk. “We have no mutual interests or hobbies. And we’ve hardly talked,” he said.
It sounded like something found in an Onion article: “Hipster bemoans having to attend birthday party for one-year old with ‘no shared hobbies.'”
Upon arrival, the aforementioned one-year old, still mastering the technique of walking, tottered right past Hans with remarkable ease–and without the slightest acknowledgment. I couldn’t have directed the scene better if I’d tried.
In his defense, the little guy was no doubt on a mission to the more exciting bubble machine. Hans and I exchanged glances.
Despite this obviously blatant putdown, Hans and I did our best to keep our composure. The BF and I escorted ourselves to a picnic bench and struck up conversation with a (married) couple.
We joined the conversation readily, adding our wildly engaging two cents about small dogs as though we knew a thing about them. As we chitchatted, there were bubbles and babies all about, a cute birthday banner fluttering in the wind, blue cupcakes, presents, I-phones glimmering…
Here I was, an adult. Doing adult things.
About then, a giant bubble popped in my eye.
I guess these are the natural risks of having biggish eyes.
This fierce burst of pain took over my left eye ball. Without delay, watering and wincing began. I knew pretty quickly there was no way I was keeping this a secret.
“I’m sorry,” I said, interrupting in a panic, “But a bubble just popped in my eye.”
Someone at the table quickly fetched a plastic water bottle. “Dump water in your eye,” the BF instructed knowledgeably.
Most of the water landed on my clothes. The rest of the water didn’t really make a difference. So I decided then to try taking out my left contact. Maybe it was locking that bubble soap in there somehow, right? I threw the daily lens on the grass with defiance.
But that didn’t help either.
My eye was still watering profusely, still stinging, and now I couldn’t see clearly.
I spent the rest of the evening under the shaded park shelter with my sunglasses on. Concealed by my plastic pink frames, I squeezed the left eye shut in a permanent and very un-sexy sort of wink.
I carried on in conversation. I sang “Happy Birthday,” and I clapped as the little guy opened his third alphabet letter set. (I knew I should’ve gotten that baby bike helmet.)
When it was time to go home, I felt as though I’d cried all evening.
Being an adult is an emotional affair, I decided.
As soon as you think, ‘aha, I’ve got it!’ something ridiculous happens.
And I reckon, it usually is ridiculous, rather than tragic.
I know that “hard” and “challenging” happens as you grow up. But ridiculous? When you’re a kid, who tells you, “Hey, growing up is downright ridiculous. It’s hilarious, really. Get ready!”
Yes, there were more “important” things that happened this summer than an bubble popping in my eye.
My sister second-to-youngest visited for 6 weeks to help with the opening of the Menno Tea Café–which yes, opened! I saw friends. I saw family. I travelled a bit. I worked a lot.
I did a lot of self-journeying. I dug in deep with a counselor and read books and spent time reflecting.
And you know, in all the seriousness of learning to live with oneself, no lesson brought it home quite like the bubble incident.
Because nothing humbles you like the unexpected. Nothing reminds you more clearly of your humanity, of your childishness, of the importance of laughing and carrying eye drops with you at all times, than situations like that one little moment in the park.
Before we got in the car, the BF and I stopped at the dog park. Dog-less, we felt like we were breaking the rules welcoming ourselves inside the gate and finding a questionably sticky bench to share.
Still squinting, unable to see out of one eye, I spent the next hour trying to convince strangers’ large dogs to come say hi to me while wiping away impressively relentless tears.
In that moment, I think I found it, at last.
I was an adult.