Over coffee last week I was talking with a friend about the joyous summer days that made up my sunny summer as a child and pre-teen. Long languid afternoons that were structured by riding my turquoise Huffy bike, white streamers flying down the “huge” hill by the neighborhood pool, lobbing tennis balls back and forth over a worn net with my friend Lindsay while talking about who reigned supreme, Debbie Gibson or Tiffany. Debbie did have Electric Youth cologne that I bought at Eckards Drugstore and wore religiously so I’m fairly certain she had my vote. And the pool. Oh the pool, which had the constant overpowering smell of chlorine and Coppertone Dry Oil that we liberally smeared on our young skin. The lower the SPF the better as our goal was to get as tan as possible as quickly as possible. I also applied that same brilliant logic to using lemon juice to lighten my brown hair, using bottles of pure lemon juice or Sun-In. I had orange hair as a result which was lovely. These were days that stretched for a full 24 hours with as much activity and motion as could be squeezed into the time where the light shone.
At that age I could not imagine my life as an adult. I would bitterly complain of unfairness when my parents asked, or rather demanded for me to do some mundane chore such as room cleaning, floor sweeping or some other activity I thought a waste of valuable time. MY valuable time. I huffily thought, “When I’m an adult I can do as I want and be my own boss.” My childish idea of adulthood was mostly a life where you could eat Little Debbie snack cakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner; you could stay up as late as you wanted reading books without anyone telling you to turn off the light and GO TO BED; and you had control over your own life. It was a hazy vision and I waited for that glorious day.
Of course adulthood is not like that. It is a life for me filled with looking at Little Debbie cakes and gagging at the amount of preservatives, working at night on my laptop after Julia goes to bed and wishing that I could read just ONE chapter of the novel it has taken me months to read and feeling in control is the last word I would use for my life as an adult, especially now. I wait eagerly now for the rare day where I can swim in a pool and have not held a tennis racket or ridden a bike in ages. That feeling of freedom, wind that smells of fresh cut grass rushing past me as I speed down a hill, legs pumping my bike are a memory.
I think my experience with widowhood is similar. I have been torn lately between feeling like my life before Wesley died was frivolous and silly and fretting that it is unfair and a disservice to our life together to feel like the moments that filled our lives were anything but important to us. My mind used to be filled with what now seem such trivial concerns and pettiness over whose turn it was to unload the dishwasher or finger pointing over if TomTom was giving us the right directions on a road trip but that was my life. Our life. A shared love that was filled with funny inside jokes, made up names for people and animals that span over a decade with a story behind each one that are precious to only us and the nagging and picking at one another that craft the fabric that made our live together. But that life and the now seemingly minute details of it are memories.
Much as I could not imagine adult life as a child, I could not have imagined widowhood because it was never in my mind before March 30th. A flitting thought like a bird landing and lighting off of my consciousness, but never something that I devoted much thought because it was unimaginable. We would grow old because that is what generations before us did. There was no thought given to any other future than the one we dreamed of. This reality is not what I imagined, but it is what I’ve got. And the memories are what sustain and allow me to smile at a life that now seems distant and far away, like those dreams and illusions of my childhood days. Perhaps it was. Maybe in this experience I have finally grown up.