Last night, I went to a good friend’s apartment. Since I’d been out of town, his new wife had given birth to a baby girl. She was 10 days old, the most wonderful little thing I’d ever seen, and she barely made any noise. Occasionally, while we ate dinner, we’d forget that she was on the armchair next to us, until she made a soft little coo and we all remarked on what a calm, sweet baby she was. When I held her, it felt like the smallest thing I’d ever held in my life, like a burst of wind could break her into a thousand tiny pieces. We had a long, wonderful meal on beautiful blue plates brought back from Istanbul, and left at a very reasonable hour.
On the way back to the metro, my friends and I — who had last seen the new father all together on a beach vacation last year, where we all still felt like kids — talked about when we were going to have kids. “Not for five years!” my friend said, frantically lighting a cigarette, like she needed to do something irresponsible and very un-mother-like. Suddenly, all at once, it wasn’t just our most responsible acquaintances who were getting married and having children from the safe distance of Facebook posts. It was happening to our good friends. They were moving into responsible apartments with light-filled kitchens and little cribs set up next to the beds we used to crash on at 3 AM.
I couldn’t believe that he could suddenly be this person, that everything could come together so quickly and he and his wife could be smiling at us all knowingly from across the salad bowl and the half-empty bottle of red wine. The four of us that came to eat felt like kids, our feet dangling from our chairs while we snuck in a meal at the grown-up table. And suddenly, it didn’t seem so weird that the two of them could have managed all the logistics and the planning and the radical change in lifestyle. It seemed weird that we couldn’t.
Today, I was on a park bench, eating a sandwich next to two old gossiping ladies, talking about their children and their grandchildren and who was getting married to whom. I thought about my own grandmother, who must be waiting for me to get married, who would never pressure me to do so but who must hope that she gets to see a wedding from my branch of the family tree. Somewhere between dinner at my friend’s house, and these two ladies talking on the bench about their potential great-grandchildren, we grow up. Marriage and children go from “this vague, big thing that will happen at some point” to “just another happy event to plan, like a travel visa or a move to a bigger apartment.” Life adapts, and we get big, and things happen.
But that’s what I’m so scared of — that things will happen, and I will never be ready for them. Maybe I am going to continue feeling like a grown child, never fully prepared for anything, spending too much money at the restaurant and then wondering where it went the next day. And everyone around me will move into these wonderful apartments with big bookshelves and I will be kicking my feet at the table, still glad that I get to make a couple jokes and grab a drink with friends on the way home. Maybe adulthood will happen around me, and I might absorb a bit or two of it through osmosis, but I will never choose to open its door and step into it like my friend has.
I recently talked to a good friend of mine who is a few years older, and has children herself, what she thinks of all this. We go out quite a bit, and it seems that being an “adult” has not stopped her from living every bit of her own life. She told me that she never really feels like she’s become an adult, that she only meets people every now and then who make her realize how far she has to go. Because even with her big apartment, and her own husband and children, and those pretty blue plates that look so nice in the evening light, she still sometimes finds herself kicking her feet at the grown-up table.