There is something about being home that makes me revert back to being a child. The second I walked in my Grandfather's door it was as if I had lost about 20 years and went up 3 dress sizes. (The food. Oh my God. We should all eat like New Englanders.) He even puts these slippers out for me that are essentially two giant pooh bear heads that you cram your feet into. That ends up being my footwear of choice the ENTIRE weekend, and there is nothing like walking around with your feet in pooh's head that makes you feel super sexy.
So, I regress. Majorly. And I have never thought about it until this last trip.
One morning Gramp and I were drinking coffee in the kitchen as I watched him prepare the turkey for dinner. (Notice I said watching, not helping. I am a total ass.) Totally out of character for him, my Gramp looked up at me and said out of the blue: "You know. Your Grandmother would have been really proud of you. You've turned into an amazing woman."
My jaw dropped and I stared at him and then I stared down at my pooh bear heads on my feet. I was wearing snowflake pajama pants, one of Brett's old shirts, and my hair was still in little braids I had absently constructed as I watched him cook food for me. I felt anything but womanly. I didn't even feel adult.
"Well." I said. "Let's not go that far."
He frowned at me over the naked turkey. "You're being weird."
"No, you're being weird!" I sang out, and then clamped my hand over my mouth, trying to silence the sing-songy Melissa that comes out when I am nervous or uncomfortable. Or drunk. I cleared my throat and looked him in the eye in the way I imagined an adult woman wearing pooh slippers would. "Gramp. I feel like I have no idea what I am doing with my life and I feel anything but womanly. What would Gram be proud of, exactly?"
He was quiet for a long time, and I felt that I had shattered the one adult moment we had shared this entire trip. I slowly unthreaded the braids from my hair and patted my pooh feet lovingly. "She would be proud of you because you chased your happy." He grunted, shoving the bird into the oven. "That's all we ever wanted for you, and you did it. You've grown up a lot."
It was refreshing to know that his idea of success and maturity was not measured in 401k plans or glittering job offers. He didn't care that I wear pajamas that are actually intended for toddlers or that I am still in school at 28 years old with my ovaries covered in a layer of dust. He was just proud of me for chasing...something. For leaving my small town and going after a dream and a life and not ever really giving up on it. To him, that dedication made me a woman. And a grown up. It was weird to see myself through that lens.
I guess the whole point is to make sure we are open to the possibility that we're not total fuck ups. To be willing to look at ourselves the way other people see us- because sometimes, for good and for bad, that is the most realistic interpretation of who we are. Maybe I spent the rest of the day twirling around the kitchen in my slippers, (I discovered that the pooh head is so heavy that if you get yourself going in a good spin you can rotate several times because the weight propels you forward...yes, I realize how awesome you now think I am...) AND MAYBE I stole the pickle and cheese tray and ate the whole thing by myself, AND MAYBE I made up a song about Christmas and sung the whole thing to Gramp really loud in my stage of a kitchen, (some of the winning lyrics? "It's Christmasss...CHRISTMASSSS....CHRISTMASSSSSSSSS!") but these things didn't make me a child, they made me a very eccentric adult with an insatiable need for attention.
I'm ok with that adult. And I kind of like the fact that she's not always polished, she's not always quiet, (well, never, actually.) but she is colorful and loved and a little bit insane.
And I am still chasing my happy, Gram. And I promise I will never, ever stop.