Favorites - On Being an Adult

I remember oh-so-clearly lounging on my parent's bed, watching my mom get ready to go out with my dad.

It was the 1950's. Her dress was white taffeta flocked with black. Her hair was short and wavy, her shoes high, her lipstick red, her attitude completely unimpressed by her own goddess-hood.

I sighed and asked, "Mom, do you ever sin?"

She must have turned around with humor.

"Of course I do, Honey. Everyday."

I didn't believe her.

Did you ever imagine adult life was going to like this? So many choices to consider, laundry to do, goals to accomplish, adventures to experience, mistakes to atone for, people to love, people to avoid, repair bills to pay.

Being an adult is like mining. Most of it happens beneath the surface.

We seldom reckon how much courage some of us are expending, how sincerely most of us dig for patience. How much we love and hate our homes. How hard we work to make our very ordinary lives work.

Adult life, when we remember to slow down and pay attention, is filled with wonder, challenge, and fabulously fascinating moments.

These are some of my favorite columns about adults around us:

Hometown Weekend

There's a literature about leaving home and then going back. Thomas Wolfe said you can't do it. Much of Bruce Springsteen's early music, like Born to Run and Thunder Road, was about the risk of leaving home versus the risk of staying. Even fairy tales, that stuff reputedly for children, is often about the dangerous magic that happens when one leaves home, the powerful changes one goes through, the impossibility of going back as the same person one was when one left.

Memories of Friends' Houses

The ad read simply enough. 'For Sale By Owner, 2-story brick, 3 bedrooms, spacious kitchen.' Someone has already bid in on it. If all goes smoothly, a new owner will soon move into the house of some of the best friends we've made since we moved to Wisconsin.

It could be worse. Since they're 'only' moving to Iowa, I suppose we could say we're not losing friends, we're gaining a weekend getaway destination. After all, a year ago some other people we liked moved to Shanghai.

Car Trouble #2

Early in June we were dinner guests at the home of friends. The evening was so enjoyable I suggested we get together again mid-summer in Chicago. We could do something interesting in the afternoon then go to an "off the beaten track" sort of nouveau Mexican restaurant that my husband and I like. Our friends said that as long as we did the driving, anything sounded fine.



Last Saturday, while Racine endured one of The Blizzards of the Century, my family managed to miss nearly the whole thing. (We did get to experience that enterprise called shoveling the driveway.)

We were lollygagging our time away with friends Dave, Mary, Colin and Michael at their cabin near Chippewa Falls. I see humor in how we "escaped" bad weather by going 300 miles further north than here. As a Chicago friend once commented to me, "You're kidding! There is something further north than Racine, Wisconsin?"


This wry observation was in Ann Landers last week (I'd credit the comedian who wrote it, but being a responsible citizen, I've already recycled the newspaper). "You know you're getting older when, as you bend over to tie your shoes, you try to think if there's anything else you could do while you're down there."

I know the feeling. I'm mid-forties and many of the thrills of aging are coming my way. For example, I've noticed wrinkles on my chin. The reading line in my forehead and the laugh lines around my eyes didn't bother me a bit -- but wrinkles on my chin?

Livin La Vida Modest

My parents were smart, kind, sometimes humorous, and so incredibly and unbelievably honest, responsible, and moral it would make a dead dog weep. If one was supposed to do something - they did it. If an event might be tinged with the slightest hint of recklessness, irresponsibility or scandal - they wouldn't touch it with a twenty mile stick.

Which is why, when I was grown up, I was so stunned at this story my mother told me.


When we left Yellowstone we expected the last few days of our vacation would include visits to Devil's Tower, the Black Hills, Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, and a couple goofy hours at Wall Drugs. That was the general plan.


The most beautiful table I've ever seen was a Chinese antique. It was constructed of a dark, almost black wood and was so long it could seat dozens of people. The most stunning of its attributes was the rim of the table's surface. It was about five inches wide and was entirely carved in tiny scenes of people, animals and twining vines. Visualize the intricately carved ivory pieces you have seen in pictures or museums. It was that skill and complexity transferred to the edge of an old, immense, exotic table.

On Getting Older

My older kids had a teenage music station on the car radio just the way they usually do and I was ignoring it just the way I usually do. Suddenly, bursting sweetly into the air came "I can see clearly now the rain is gone....." (Johnny Nash, 1972)

Immediately all three of us burst into loud, happy (and mediocre) singing. I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel, my son drummed the upholstery to the reggae beat, my daughter laughed at us -- but she knew the words and kept singing.

Seventeen Minutes of Kayaking

It was late Monday afternoon and I was sitting at my computer, quietly tapping away. My son was on the other side of the table doing his homework. For several minutes we were both silently focused on our work.

Then my son looked up. I felt his eyes on me. I tried to ignore him.


I sighed. "What?"

"When I'm done here, will you drive me to the lake so I can kayak?"