October 31, 2011

She waved her hands in the air to cut me off. “Yeah, you meet all of your obligations; you do all of the things a responsible adult is supposed to do. You know, intellectually, you’re a grown-up, but you don’t move through the world like you know you’re a grown-up.”

And then we both just sat there. I didn’t know what to say. She was right. I could feel it in my bones. But what does that even mean? How does one “move through the world like you know you’re a grown-up?” I was still preoccupied with that question when I came home.

I told him what she told me, and he reacted more strongly than I would have imagined. “Yeah, that’s my problem too! That sums it up. But how do we do that? What do we change?” We went about our evening. We went to bed. We were still bewildered.

I’m still thinking about it. If he feels the same way, then surely we’re not alone. I watched the people in my life. You know what? A lot of us wear costumes we don’t need to wear. I think we’ve been wearing them so long, we don’t realize we can take them off. We don’t even realize we’re wearing them anymore.

There’s that saying that works so well for so many of us. “Fake it ’til you make it.” We all do it. It’s incredibly useful when you’re trying to make a change. What I’ve noticed it that many of us don’t seem to realize that we’ve actually made it. We don’t need to fake it anymore. Somewhere in our heads and hearts we hold on to that hesitancy that was understandable and healthy when we were faking it, but keeps us from “moving through the world like we know who we are” when the faking it part is over.

So this Halloween, I invite you to look underneath your costume and see who you are. Do you still need that costume, or was it just the armor you needed to become who you are?

To my beautiful friend who takes such care with her appearance, and yet swats away any and all compliments, you are beautiful.

To my caring friend who listens with patience to the trials and tribulations of everyone she knows, and who celebrates the successes of those same people as much or more than her own, and yet believes the love her friends and family return is just luck, you are loved because you are loving.

To my smart and funny friend who is always quick with the clever retort, and yet is still afraid that others might be laughing at him and not with him, you are smart and funny.

And to all of us middle-aged grown-ups who still believe that someone might catch on to the idea that we’re just faking it, that we don’t know what we’re doing, we’ve grown up. We can take off the costume.

I’m still not quite sure how to do that. I’m still figuring it out. Happy Halloween.


Ripe Fruit

October 30, 2011

He looks forward to going every Fall. He looks forward to the tasty treats, the apple cider donuts and the fresh apple cider. He looks forward to the fresh apples just off the tree. He looks forward to an excuse to spend a day away from the cares of his everyday life. He’s not much of a planner, but he checks the schedule, notes the weeks when his favorite apples will be at peak for picking, and marks them on the calendar.

She looks forward to his enjoyment of this Fall tradition. She looks forward to how carefully he will choose his appropriate fall outfit for the occasion. She looks forward to the drive up the mountain and to enjoying the trees in their colorful splendor. She looks forward to spending a day with him away from the cares of their everyday lives. She enjoys that he’s the planner each year. She just has to check the calendar, and maybe the weather, to see when they will go.

The trip is always full of the familiar memories for her. Sometimes she shares with him. He doesn’t hold on to these things the way she does. It isn’t all wistful nostalgia. She can’t help but feel a bit melancholy when she remembers how often they drove this highway half-way across the country. It was too many times for those couple of years. Those were worrisome trips where she wondered what the other end would hold, knowing that one of those times would indeed hold the end.

Those years are past, and she pushes the melancholy aside to enjoy this beautiful day. The green and gold and red leaves shine brilliantly in the sun. There seem to be just the right number of white fluffy clouds dotted on the perfect blue sky. He’s playing music from the soundtrack of their college days on the radio. She smiles to hear him singing along. She begins to look forward to walking down amongst the rows of apple tress at the top of the mountain.

As he drives past the park toward the bottom of the mountain, she reminds him. “I love this park. Do you remember?”

“I like it too. I remember walking there with you.”

“Yes, but do you remember what we talked about?”

“I remember walking there with you.”

“That’s the park where we talked about whether we could afford it or not. We decided we could at least afford to hire someone to plan it. That’s the park where we decided to try. Don’t you remember? That’s the park where we decided to make our dreams reality.”

He looks at her, reaches for her, holds her hand. “I remember walking there with you.”

At the orchard, he parks the truck and they get out. She stops to admire the view. She thinks how lovely small peaks are. The views are sweeping enough to gain perspective on the world, but the heights are not so high as to isolate the viewer. She pulls her gaze away to see where he has gone and smiles. He’s headed for the donut line.

“Sustenance for hiking and picking,” he calls.

She follows along, and let’s herself get lost in the fun. She enjoys the warm sun on a chilly day while indulging in a warm apple cider donut. An annual treat they both look forward to. She watches the families gathering and splitting apart in all the fun. She notices that young boys can’t help but test their strength picking up the largest pumpkins in the pumpkin patch.

He’s being patient with her. He wants to get to the real action. He’s headed to the line for the bags. He figures she’ll catch up when she’s ready. He’s at the front of the line, examining the maps and planning their journey. He hears her call to him from behind.

“Sweetheart, now, don’t go crazy, OK?”

He smiles back at her. Her smile, her easy posture, her relaxed pace walking toward him assure him that she isn’t scolding. She just can’t help herself.

“OK. Four bags?” He knows there are only the two of them. He knows apples don’t stay fresh forever, but today is about fun. It’s fun picking apples. He wonders how much fun she’s up for today.

“Do you want to take the shuttle, or do you want to walk?”

She knows he’s trying to be sweet. She also knows he wants to walk. She sees the little boy in him and she just wants to join the fun. She grabs his hand. “Let’s walk. Let’s stay together until we get all the way out there, though.”

They head up (and it is up) the trail to where his favorite apples are. They wander off the trail at intervals to hunt among rows of trees, among the explosion of fruit burdening the branches for prizes to be sampled and prizes to take home. They help each other find and reach the ripest, the prettiest, the perfect apples at the inner and top branches. The bags fill up. They have too many apples for just the two of them, but they are having fun. They are having fun together.

They don’t talk much for the rest of the afternoon. They don’t need to, and it’s too much fun to listen.  They are borrowing the fun of the groups of friends or family around them and adding it to their own.

The overheard bits of conversation always make her smile, and sometimes make him giggle:

“We can eat the apples? I didn’t know we could eat them!”

“Can we pick more than one?”

“I’m holding the branch so you can pluck the apples. That’s why we came apple-plucking.”

“That’s a bad tree. This is the good one.”

“I want to go to the lady pinks. When can we go to the lady pinks?”

“Don’t worry, gravity will carry you down the hill.”

“This is my tree. Do you want me to get you some apples from my tree?”

“Mommy, don’t you think these flowers are pretty when you hold them together?”

“These are so good. Juicy. They don’t even taste like apples.”

“I’m tired. Oh, there’s donuts? I can catch up for donuts!”

They smile to hear all of the children laugh and scream. It pleases them to hear how many of the children say please and thank you. They love to come here every year. They love the dying leaves on the trees. They love the fresh, ripe fruit of the apple trees. They love the crush and happiness and tolerance of families at play. They love being a part of humanity spending a day away from the cares of their everyday lives.