And my answers evolved from princess to reporter to doctor to dancer to singer to famous author and so on. The facts of my life told a different story—from newspaper delivery girl to theater projectionist to baker to banker to wife-and-mother to businesswoman doing double duty as wife-and-mother.
But the question still hung in the air along with a different one—when did I become a grown up?
Was it when I graduated from high school? From college? When I got married? When I had children? When my children moved out of the house? Will I be grown up when my children have children? Or will it be when my hair is white and my bones as porous as a house sparrow’s?
The problem is that I don’t feel grown up. There wasn’t a moment in my life when I transitioned from child to adult. I still carry all the odds and ends of childhood within me even as the wrinkles on my face grow deeper. There’s a corner of my brain where my teenage angst still resides. The infatuation I felt towards my husband on our first date still thrives within my heart after more than thirty years. And the young mother who couldn’t figure out how to put her newborn baby in a car seat still grapples with any difficulty born by her now adult children.
I know a guy whose name is Bob. He’s been on this planet for around ninety years but when I looked into his eyes I got the feeling that he’s still probably growing up himself. He might be the guy you call in the middle of the night if you’re alone and scared and need someone to talk you back to normalcy. Or he might be the guy you call if you need someone to take you to the doctor, or the airport. Particularly if you’re old and don’t see so well anymore. Because he’s not old—he’s still growing up.
You could probably count on him to make a hundred mile trip once a week to deliver Meals on Wheels to locations so remote there aren’t even any real roads to drive on. Or maybe if you live in hurricane country and can’t drive yourself, he’d be the guy to stay behind and make sure you got to high country where the tidal surge wouldn’t be a threat. If you live in Cuba without access to the basic amenities we all take for granted, he’d certainly be the guy looking for a way to get them to you. And just like the kid that he is, you can probably find him riding a bike—or maybe playing with his new iPhone, or model trains and airplanes. I’m not sure if he’s grown up yet, but I suspect he’s not.
So the next time someone asks me what I want to be when I grow up… well I might just say that I want to be Bob.