Cherish the Child, Ascend to Adult

I am an adult.  It is undeniable.  I have all the classic symptoms of adulthood: a career, a home, a marriage certificate and the accompanying joint account, a strict bedtime of 11:00pm on weekends, and bills, bills, bills.

But, man, don’t I want to be a child.  I want to run outside until my legs burn, using only the position of the sun in the sky to tell me when its time to stop.  To lay in the grass and make flower crowns and do cartwheels.  To have dinner on the table and food in the pantry without having to worry about how it got there.  To take naps without the accompanying guilt. To indulge without frenzied justification. And pizza rolls.  I want all the pizza rolls my stomach can handle until my tongue is scorched and burning because what kid ever waited until they cooled?

Nowadays, if I tried to run until my legs burned, I’d make it solidly to the end of the block before collapsing into a heap of heaving lethargy.  I believe flower crowns send an open invitation to all insects for a party on my skin, a creepy, crawling party that I have no intention of attending.  The last time I did a cartwheel, I pulled a hamstring.  No joke. My body is corroding as quickly as my perceived invisibility.  And pizza rolls give me heartburn.

Now that I’ve got you walking through the valley of the shadow of the death of my childhood, let me remind you – I live in an adult playground.  I live in the city of id, the town of indulgence.  Playtime still exists, though different. It tastes better.  Frozen pizza products have been replaced with a delicate blend of spices and herbs by Donald Link, Leah Chase, John Besh, my grandmother, everyone’s grandmother, all chefs in their own right. Etouffee and fricassee recipes passed along like heirlooms, cherished as the treasure they are.   Freshly shucked oysters, smoked pig, roasted duck, fried trout, boiled seafood and all the fixins washed down with a cold Abita.

Brief pause to drool.

As if the taste bud circus wasn’t enough to make me abandon my very responsible online budgeting tool with glee, Louisiana has more festivals than days in the year: Strawberry Fest, Crawfish Fest, Poboy Fest, Cochon de Lait Fest, Okra Fest, Jazz Fest, Oyster Fest, Fun Fest – That’s right.  Fun Fest.  Don’t even need a reason other than that.  Other than, “Hey y’all, lets get together, have some fucking fun.”

Add a fiddle and an accordion or a whole lotta brass or even just a washboard, and we’ve officially entered carefree.

It is easy to forget here. It is easy to preserve your inner child, to section off adulthood to a part of you that exists only when needed.  Thank God for that.

And thank God for the adult in me.  The person that emerges during business hours or in a crisis, takes a breath and asks that truly important question.  Every decision, every hard moment where you want to scream and stomp your foot and slam your door and have someone else, some adult, any adult, deal with it, can be solved with a question: What kind of person do you want to be?

For me, the answer is easy.  What’s difficult is being that person. Sometimes being that person requires me to wag a finger at my inner child, put my hands on my hips, and stare down the persistent “but I don’t want to!” It takes resolve and courage.  But it holds me higher with dignity and pumps my heart with adrenaline.  It separates me from those who stand for nothing and are trampled for it.  You must go toe-to-toe with those who seek to keep you in your place, the place of a child, and you must rise above it.  To be an adult, for me, is to stake out my own place.

I am an adult.  It is undeniable.  It is liberating.

 

 

cemetaryHave you ever walked in a Louisiana cemetery?  Passed through the shadow of a mausoleum hearing nothing but the crunch of gravel beneath your feet? The sound ricochets off the stone making you wonder if you are really alone. Your eyes glance over your shoulder before rationale kicks in. Nothing to see but a tombstone maze and names begging not to be forgotten.   Life hovers around the edges with the sound of passing cars and the cicadas’ song.  Oak branches embrace the weeping angels resting on top of the graves, consoling the guardians who are never off duty.

These monuments offer a physical representation for the lives they hold. We want desperately for their size to mirror the impact the deceased had on our lives, unsatisfied still with the stone tombs and mausoleums we erect to fill the void they left behind. Wishing we could fill the cracks in our hearts with the same hard stone. Wishing we could wrap ourselves instead in a concrete fortress where nothing has been lost.

The names and dates tell a story, but the story is not complete. There is so much more inside of the concrete.