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"I'm in a much bigger body now, but more of a kid than ever."

Maturation might involve little more than repeatedly catching one's self engaging in ridiculous actions; SmallThings which, when later tallied, amount to huge differences. Youth imparts a sense of invulnerability which experience shatters, and rightfully should. Even the wins might manage to impart a few of humility's finer points. Accumulated losses might convince anyone that they're a fool a heart. I'm now a grandfather of considerable experience, The GrandOtter now present as a twenty-one year old, though I suspect that I'll forever relate to her as though she was still about eight. The ensuing years have humbled us both without making either of us particularly wiser. We share mutual respect though my advancing age tips presumptions in my favor. I am, after all, the presumptive grownup in the relationship, though I experience my self as most frequently a GroanUp.

A GroanUp has made a fool of himself frequently enough to sincerely question his own authority and omniscience.
I've guessed plenty and guessed wrong more times than I care to recount. I'm growing to recognize that I hold my world within outmoded frames of reference, interpreting now as though it was then. I weigh my personal experiences, anecdotal as they must certainly have been, as templates for propriety. I've gone a little grey in the gills. My days seem more filled with repeat performances than fresh investigations. I hold a certain mastery over the infinitesimal slice of our universe I can call my own, and so effectively disqualify myself from making any sweeping generalizations or judgments. I am nobody's template for anything, an increasingly confused soul holding more credentials than I care to count, almost all GroanUp.

I was early on infected by the notion that there was something called a GrownUp, someone who had successfully matriculated from youthful folly into the more solemn and serious world beyond. I believe that the authority figures of my own youth promoted this notion as a defense against any upstart questioning their qualifications. The old 'I'm grown up and you're not' insistence could blunt about ninety percent of a youth's questioning about the presumed all and powerful man behind any curtain. Some 'grown ups' seemed to have successfully convinced themselves of their own inherent superiority, though witnessing youths carried some unresolved questions. When The GrandOtter asked if she might drive The Schooner, I quaked inside. In that moment, I envisioned a reckless eight year old in a bumper car. I internally debated long and hard before acquiescing, though I felt it necessary to explain that I was a ninny passenger and counseled her to observe the speed limits because the road, which might appear remote, was actually heavily monitored. If you exceed the speed limit, I warned, you will get ticketed, asserting my tissue paper authority to preserve my status as a grown up.

She drove like a dream, perfectly attentive. She explained that she'd driven a lot while I wasn't looking, during my long absences since she'd turned sixteen. She'd outgrown the notion that driving is a competitive race and she'd quite obviously learned to use her turn signals and even merge into freeway traffic. Her presence came a little clearer as I groaned inside, GroanUp a little more after catching myself presuming once more. Staying current remains a never-ending chore hampered by every clear recollection of the way it was before. I'd thought I'd successfully classified The GrandOtter when I could still pick her up and make her giggle for no apparent reason, but she out-foxed me by continuing to grow, up as well as out, while I and my clear recollections collected dust in a distant closet. I question who I am now, teaching her without her first asking for instruction. My many presumptions that she probably doesn't yet possess the faculties of a full grown up finds me foisting that same old discredited script back upon her, and by simple association, back upon myself as well.

I wonder if I'll ever outgrow the notion that there's such a thing as a grown up. As an early learning, it's deeply imbedded within me, apparently almost invulnerable to the influence of my universally disqualifying actual experience since implantation. The best I've ever personally witnessed amounts to kids inhabiting big people bodies, and that image hardly reinforces anyone's classic notion of grown up. Maturation does not distance us from our youth, but perhaps more closely connects us to it. We each make our share of mistakes and GroaningUp seems to mostly involve more deeply accepting—perhaps even appreciating—just how many of our youthful follies remain intact and even become amplified by our experiences. I'm in a much bigger body now, but more of a kid than ever.

©2020 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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