The first time the pretty boys called me ma’am.
When my first child was born, followed closely by the second. The responsibility of creating a secure life for your children and giving them the guidance to be independent is staggering. You can no longer be a child or childish when you have children.
When I had to pay for the electricity, the milk, and the toilet paper. And when I understood why people don’t spend their whole lives in shared apartments in Williamsburg.
The day I turned fifteen, I walked in on my father with a woman who was not my mother. I told my mom. On my 15th birthday, I discovered that sometimes you have to be your own hero.
When my grandpa passed away, I begged my parents over and over again to tell me how to handle it. My dad told me, “We don’t know. No one does.” I sat down, dumbfounded and silent. I went to temple and said the mourner’s kaddish. And then I sat outside eating gelato, got sunburnt, and was a little more grown-up.
While studying abroad in Paris during the summer of my junior year, I spent a night out on the town hanging out with the locals in a little Parisian Bistro. I looked around and realized there was no going back: I would return home a woman of the world.
There’s nothing quite like the first time you buy condoms.
The most mature decision I’ve ever made for myself was the day I decided to remain young in spirit forever. Adulthood is a trap. Never grow up.
Waking up to a crying, vomiting, feverish child, my first thought was always “Where’s the person who’s supposed to take care of this?” And then I’d realize that no one else was coming, and I’d haul myself out of bed. Because even if deep down I wanted to cry for MY mommy, I was the one supposed to take care of this.
I have an acute sense of joy and wonder, but have felt like an old soul since day one. Taking care of four-legged friends from age 10 does that to you.
About a year ago, on a hike with my dad, our conversation took a heavy turn. He started sharing with me a lot of his worries about finances, about his brother who drinks too much, and his mother slipping into dementia. In the middle of it all, I suddenly realized: this untouchable, titanic giant of my childhood was letting me in, tentatively, to the places where he was weak and vulnerable. When it dawned on me that he was looking for my advice, that’s the first time I truly felt like there was no one above me anymore that I could count on to “have it all together.” It was all of us—my dad, me, the rest of humanity—in the same boat, taking what we knew so far and doing our best in good faith to let it guide us.
When it became obvious, in my 20’s, that my parents had become my children.
After arriving to NYC from Europe a couple of years earlier, I ran away from an emotionally and physically abusive home. Being a 15-year-old runaway in NYC in the mid ’70s catapulted me into adulthood.
When, at 43 years old, my father died, and there was no longer anyone between me and God.
When I was 21, I was a manager at a busy supermarket. One afternoon, I had to inform one of the workers—a gruff man 25 years my senior whom I did not know very well—that his wife had been killed in a car accident. I supported him, literally and emotionally, as he wept.
When I went to the same college as the boy who broke my high school heart and never stuck my hand in that fire again.
When I began pouring my wife’s coffee first.
When I was 16 and my parents were out at a dinner reception, my 10-year-old sister started seizing. I threw her in the back of my mom’s Buick, sat down at the steering wheel, and prayed. Six minutes and a miracle later, we were at the hospital. I had never driven a day in my life.
As I watched my wife walk down the aisle, I remembered my favorite moment in a beloved childhood story. “Pooh?” said Piglet. “Yes, Piglet?” said Pooh. “Nothing,” said Piglet. “I just wanted to be sure of you.”