My great-grandmother passed away a few weeks ago. She'd been sick with various ailments for a few years, and spent the last few months in bed. I saw her this summer and said my good-byes then, so I didn't travel with the rest of my family to Alabama for the funeral. She was 99; lived a great, long life with lots of compassion and quite a family legacy.
Her death is affecting me differently than I thought it would. I feel as though a part of my childhood died with her. No more summers catching fireflies in jars and sitting on the porch swing and clogging my arteries with Southern cooking.
Simultaneously, I'm getting married next summer. Societal expectations assume that marriage equals growing up. You can be 21 and married and a grown-up, but 35 and single and not a grown-up. Explain that to me. So whatever societal constrictions I fight against, I still feel them.
I don't want to be a grown-up (why do you think I've stayed in school so long?). I don't want to be a kid, either. My mom says 27 is a great age because I can enjoy the benefits of being young and the adventure of growing older. Or something like that. She says a lot of smart things that I try to let seep into the way I live. My dad says I should have a daughter my age getting married, that would make me feel like a grown-up.
Being engaged is terribly fun, but it presents a transition in identity that I could not have anticipated. How do I go from being one (me) to being one (us)? My sister says to think of it as adding to yourself, not taking away. Becoming one does not indicate losing yourself, and my partner is my best ally in the process.
But there's still a sort of mourning that happens... now I know why historically and in many cultures the women take the bride-to-be away for a week and really embrace that transition. I was a pretty content single woman, and now I'll be a content married woman. It's a lot to take in.
I think the reason I loved the fireflies so much was because they looked like stars, yet I could catch them. I could put them in a jar and make them my own personal miracle. So I'm taking them with me into my adulthood, or maybe I'll say growth journey. Because childhood miracles sustain and inspire us as we move forward, synthesizing all the parts of our complex and beautiful existence into one.