Being a Grown Up

I was walking behind Dawn and Todd with Z’s hand in mine at the cider mill that fall.   The warm fall day with the leaves just at the start of changing was a nice respite from the daily grind that had become my weekdays. Their little girl, A, a year younger than Z, was toddling along up ahead towards the apple barn.

Dawn was eight months pregnant with her second child, and growing uncomfortable with the weight of it.  “Can we stop and sit down somewhere and let the kids run around for a while?” she asked.  We walked over to a quiet area, away from the crowds who’d had the same idea as us today, and sat down near the mill that turned lazily in circles off to the side of the barn.

“So how’s life on the homefront?” I asked her, eager to not talk about mine.  Between Dennis’ offer and my dread of all things Monday through Friday, I wanted to hear about someone else’s trials.

“I may have to kill my mother in law,” she started, eager to vent about her unconventional living situation.  Dawn and Todd lived in the basement of her in laws’ house.   “I understand that she and I don’t agree on housekeeping and child rearing and a great many things, and I get that they are doing us a great favor by allowing us to live in their house, but the whole deal was that this was supposed to be like an apartment and we were supposed to be separate.  God, she pops down unannounced all of the time.  It’s so awkward.  And if I hear one more time her sigh that means This Is Bad Parenting I may just scream.   I thought this would work because I thought she’d be more like your mom.  But she’s nothing like that.  She judges everything.”

“That has to suck,” I responded.  It still stung to hear my mother invoked in casual conversation, but it no longer opened up a gaping hole in my chest anymore.  “I knew I was really lucky with how she just allowed me to be in charge and helped when I needed it.”

“It does suck.  It just makes me want to irritate her all of the time,” Dawn confided, watching her husband run around and chase our children.  “It’s hard to believe we’re about to have another one.  I do not feel like a grown up at all, but here we are.”

“Indeed.  Here we are,” I answered, taking a swig out of the cup of cider I’d poured for myself.

“Speaking of grownups…” Dawn gave me a look.

“I don’t want to talk about it,” I answered.  I still couldn’t quite believe that Dennis, my former high school English teacher, my married teacher friend, the guy who had helped me through endless tough times as a teenager, had basically offered himself up for guiltless sex to me.  “I haven’t made a decision.”

“Which means you’re still thinking about it!  If you weren’t going to do it, you probably would know straight out.”

I knew that.  It was bothering me that I wasn’t morally opposed to the idea out right.  I considered myself a good person, and sleeping with another woman’s husband, especially someone so much older than me, should be completely off the table on moral grounds.   But somehow, each time I tried to tell myself that there was no way it would happen, I could hear a tiny little voice in my head egging me on.  “What’s the harm?  You’ve always had a crush on this guy, why not see it through?  As long as you are honest with yourself about where it is going, why not?”

“I know, I know,” I groaned.  “There’s something about it that just keeps me thinking about it.  I teach at an inner city elementary school.  Not a lot of prospects going on there.  I spend every night checking papers until I fall into coma sleep, and I spend each weekend cleaning my house, grocery shopping and doing laundry.  I’m so tired all of the time.  It would be nice for someone to care about me.  And at the end of the day, the thought of him just wanting to hold me and take care of me…I know it is wrong, but I could really go for some of that right now.”

Dawn looked at me.  “I know.  I say, if you want to do it, do it.  No one is going to judge you.  You deserve something to be about you for a change.”

“That’s the thing, though,” I countered.  “The thing that keeps me hesitating.  I can’t decide if it is about me, or him, or some teenage fantasy coming true.  I need to be a grown up about this.  I need to be smart.”

We looked over at Todd, crawling on the grass with our two children on his back, laughing and carefree in the fall sun.  “Being a grownup is highly overrated,” Dawn replied.

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