The old photo albums came down from the shelf and, sitting at our kitchen table under the warm light of the vintage Tiffany lamp I refuse to let my mother get rid of, the two of us fell into the lovely rabbit hole of nostalgia. I found myself repeatedly exclaiming, “Oh, I look so much like you in this one!”
She was decked in beautiful dresses, high-waisted jeans, and button-down shirts, her hair either flowing down her back in long chocolate brown tresses or pinned up in simple but elegant updos, matching my own style so clearly, it might as well have been me had I existed in the 90s.
A few days later, after a particularly emotional late-night conversation about life, love, and the choices we make in life and in love, my mother said to me, “When I look at those old photographs of my younger self, I think about how many dreams I had, how much excitement, how much hope. And I just want to give her…”
“…the biggest hug,” I finished for her. I was in awe. I knew exactly how she felt because I have continuously found myself feeling the same way, engulfed by a desire to reassure and comfort past versions of myself. I’ve always known my mother and I have much in common, but until now, I hadn’t fully understood that even the most idealized grown-up in my life was also still trying to find her way in such a similar way as I was. In sharing this moment with my mother, I saw that no matter how much older we get or how many life experiences we gain, there are certain feelings that simply grow along with us. I glimpsed the myth of growing up; That, perhaps, we never really do.
Something that has always resonated with me is the idea of “growth” in parallel with “growing up.” We are continuously encouraged to challenge ourselves, reach for things outside of our comfort zones, and embrace change in order to grow. And so, we find ourselves not necessarily growing “up” but rather growing outward and inward, internally. When I was little, there seemed to be this nondescript era of life, a foggy “someday,” when suddenly becoming an adult just happened. Maybe when I can drive a car, or vote, or drink, I thought. Well, I’ve driven a car. I’ve voted. And even though I still can’t legally drink in the United States, something tells me it won’t happen then either. But in seeing the deepest part of myself so clearly in my mother, the fog has cleared into the realization that growing is a never-ending and ever-changing part of life.
My mother lived in the Bay Area for many years, and even though my father whisked her off to Oklahoma for an irresistible position at a titanium dioxide company after they were married, she always vowed to return to her beloved California someday. When my older sister decided to attend Santa Clara University, Mom’s alma mater, the timing seemed perfect. Best of all, California had become a dream for all of us by that point.