I sat recently on a couch with my aunt. She's a woman who's been in my life forever, and really in my life. She was a young woman when I was born, what I imagine to be similar to how I've experienced my close friends' children over the past year. The first time you really get why babies are thing people freak out about. Watching them grow through different stages, being present for significant phases, in awe of the way their squishy little baby bodies become a really tiny human who can talk and make you laugh as hard as Amy Poehler can. I believe this began the strong connection my aunt and I have always had. As a teen my aunt as a concept began to develop in my mind--how she dressed was admirable to me, the passion she had for her profession, the way her dog and her went on hikes on the weekends. She was a person and I was the one watching now.
It's weird when you become what is a very young adult, and you work on building more concepts in your head. You notice your parents are humans, not characters from a Berenstain Bears book. They struggle with eating healthy and they aren't sure about their careers. You notice this about other important adults. They have experienced pain much like yourself, possibly even more-so, but they never told you about it when they brought you into this world and made sure you were fed every day and took you to the library. Their scars are deeper than yours. They've lived longer. This takes your breath away. You wish you could erase their pain all in one moment. You're also in love. It's stunning to know these people in this capacity. It's stunning to see their specific smile stretch across their cheeks. You know them and you know what they've known and now they're smiling.
My aunt and I laughed together about my mom. The way she's been so fundamental in both of our lives, and how genuinely hilarious she is. "I wish you could have known her much earlier." My aunt's eyes crinkled. "Was she much different?" I had to know. "She was herself. She's always been kind and optimistic and had that care-taker thing about her, but she was much quieter about it. She didn't have the confidence about herself yet. She's sure now. And she's so much more silly."
There's so much to draw from those words, and their implications for me at 23. I don't want to screw it up for me or for you, so I'll just let them sink in.
My friend told me the other day that watching my mom and I laugh together was like watching two mirrors laugh at each other. The funny thing is I was only focusing on being self-conscious of my laugh when she told me that. Her words sunk in a couple days later.
It can feel like a tough responsibility to swallow actually knowing these special people. I turn from this reality to another one; what a gift it is too. What kind of a life do you have if you can't have the trust of older people and the opportunity to love them so much more? It's worth the bravery.