When I Was a Grown Up

Amy Cappelli essays

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Violet’s little voice is always transmitting a story or a half-made up song that permeates the airwaves. She has this thing lately that sounds like daydreams spoken aloud about the things she will do when she grows up. Or maybe they are things that happened in a former life as they are reported in the past tense.

When I was a grown up, I climbed a crane to the top of a building and jumped off into the sky.

I had my work blinders on, trying my best to let her constant hum stay in the periphery but the little tune she was singing to the dog kept snagging in my head.

‘Twinkle twinkle do svidanyia. How I wonder how you do svidanyia’

“What did you just say?”

“Do svidanyia.”

“Do you know what it means?”

“It means good-bye.”

Shit—where was I when she was  learning Russian?

I had been preoccupied and overwhelmed with trying to find freelance projects to help contribute to our financial pot. As the kids have gotten older the well has gotten deeper. Swallowed in it is my patience, confidence and sense of fun—not that my kids will ever say that I had any to begin with. The truth is I don’t want to play and I just don’t know how to—with heavy boughs threatening to break over our heads.

When I was a grown up, I drove my car to the beach and I played all day and collected dead fish.

Her father and brother were away over a rainy weekend. I wanted to take her to her first movie at the theatre. But she had been so nasty all morning. At the pet store where I was trying to find a no bark solution for our schnauzer, a sickening shift of a migraine started to pinch a nerve in my jaw. I wished they had no bark solutions for kids especially after I asked her nicely to stop jumping on the dog food and she yelled clearly, for the benefit of the elderly spectator beside us, “I don’t like you! I want to strangle you.”

When I was a grown up, I ran away and never came back because I was mad at you.

It was an excruciatingly long day. When it was close to bed time but not quite there, I let her enjoy the novelty of a ‘kid shower’ bringing the shower head to her level where she pirouetted in suds.

When I was a grown up, I took showers with my whole family every night.

Afterward, she dried off in her room under the costume of her hooded butterfly towel by dancing to top 40 music on the only station that works on the broken CD/ Radio/ Nature Sounds player. She spun in the spinning room. Nerves shot hellfire into my brain. I laid on her bed trying to focus on her perfectly matched rhythm and musicality. It was impressive—the effortless playfulness of it all—her little bright moon flashing me with every turn. I envied her ability to let go of crabby-day grudges, her abandonment of petulance for dance in a blink, and her carefree movement through each day trusting that she everything would be okay.

She bowed at the end of her last song.

“Oh, Mommy, I really do love you,” her little voice filled with sympathy for her laid out mama. “I’ll be your mommy. You’ll be my baby.” She tilted her head to the side with empathetic eyebrows.

When I was a grown up, I took care of you when you were sick.

Sometimes the universe gives you a break in disguise. She punches you with pain and there is nothing you can do but ride it out. Just be in the present. Just play along.

Violet ran her tiny fingernails down my arm, sending tingles and a surprising sense of comfort under my skin. There was nothing else I could do but receive her warming touch. She was the mama and I was her baby dear.

When I was an old lady and my little girl was a grown up, she made sure I was clothed, fed and bathed. And I knew everything would be okay.

Note: The illustrations are also created by the wonderful Amy Cappelli. You can view more of her writing (and illustations) here.

About the Author

Amy Cappelli

Amy Cappelli is a freelance illustrator and writer residing in Buffalo, NY with her husband, 4 children, 2 dogs, one cat, 2 rats, 2 hamsters and a parakeet. Her drawings and essays about navigating through the choppy channels of parenting teens, a tween and a pre-schooler can be found on her blog .

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