Age has to do with development or length of existence, according to Webster’s. It refers to how long you’ve been around and your capacity to act like it. Like when people say, “That guy’s 20 years old, but he acts like a 15-year-old.”

My cousins and I went to the pool today. I had to get a guest pass since I’m not part of their homeowner’s association, so we went over to the Member Services desk. Hailey gave her card to prove that she’s a legitimate member.

Then the lady behind the desk asked me how old I am.

I was surprised because that’s not something people ask much anymore. I guess I’m getting old enough that people abide by the “never ask a lady her age” maxim. They’ll usually just say something like, “Oh are you in college now? Those are the best years of your life!” (a rather depressing sentiment that I’m planning to prove untrue).

“21.” I replied, sure it was just a field they had to fill in for the pass. Or maybe wanting to know how much to charge me. I’ve been signing forms without a parent/guardian signature, filling out my own health records, and being my own spokesperson for a few years now, so I hardly thought she wanted to know to make sure I wasn’t a minor.

She looked like she thought she hadn’t heard me right, so I repeated the number, a little louder. I swallow syllables sometimes.

She shook her head. “I thought you were just a tall 16-year-old. You probably get that a lot.”


I small-laughed (you know, like you do when you’d rather not laugh but feel like it’s the most socially appropriate response to the situation). “It’s probably because I’m not wearing makeup.”

I thought about it later, the fact that I was wearing a t-shirt and jean shorts and carrying a pink crossbody bag. That was probably it. I usually want to read into things like that, to assign motive. You just don’t want to take me seriously. Or I’m not wearing club attire, so you assume I’m juvenile? My mom is typically that one to back me down from that. “She’s just a bad judge of age,” she’d say. “It’s a compliment. You’ll be glad to look younger than you are when you’re 40.”

It took me a few minutes to shake that off (watch this to see what happens in my mind while I do that). Am I gangly? Is that it? You’re just an overgrown teenager. No, I’m not. She just doesn’t know. She doesn’t know me. We didn’t have a conversation. She’s not demeaning my intelligence. She just thinks I look younger. That’s all. 

But eventually, I got there. I filed it away in the “Things You Will Appreciate Later” file and made a mental note to keep moisturizing well.


Back in mountain territory

My mom’s sister’s family lives in Colorado, and until Saturday I’ll be here with them. My first memories of being with Hailey and Jillie are from when I was four and they were a few months old. They came to visit us in Minnesota, and we have lots of pictures of them crying – some where they aren’t, too.

Now they’re 17 and starting to take college visits.


Hailey drives now, too. They both have jobs. They no longer carry around little pillows with pictures of stuffed animals on them called “babos” (BAH-BOH) – dirtied by love away from their original color of white. (That actually stopped quite a long time ago)

Now their lives have a mountain backdrop.

Last night, after a day of watching Big Hero 6, going to Trader Joe’s, and celebrating my Uncle JD’s birthday with flautas and cheesecake, we walked through their green space to a little waterfall.

“I’m not sure if you’d call it a waterfall.” Jillie clarified. “Maybe a cascade.”

I’m conditioned by being at school in Chicago to imagine that something named a “green space” is a flat, manicured area of grass and trees. That was more the reality of their home in Oklahoma. Their green space has a small path that meanders through tall grass, up and down hills, through trees, and past a stream. We stopped a little under a mile from their house at this stream to walk around on the rocks.

The water was cold, and the algae and mud were a little slippery, but we managed to stay upright as we figured out which spots were rocks and which were just floating blobs of algae. From five feet away from the stream, you could barely hear the water, but when you got in the middle of the stream, it was all you could hear.

We picked our way through the stream, walked across the log at the head of it, stood in the flow of the water and let our feet go numb, and shouted above the rushing water to each other. Then we walked back to the warm rocks where our shoes were and walked back home to play Wii Sports Resort.

I can still hear the water rushing in my ears.

From and to

So far this morning, I have zipped up my suitcase, taken a car ride with my dad to the airport, checked my bag, taken off my shoes and probably contracted MRSA from the floor of the airport, heard a man call a Muslim woman a “jihadist” and wondered what is happening to humanity, and gotten crumbs from a scone all over my lap. So, when I stand up from here, someone will need to bring a broom.

I’m off to visit my family in Colorado today. I’m thinking about getting up at 5:30 every day. Life is nice in the morning. TSA is nice in the morning. Airport food is still overpriced in the morning, but some things never change.  My word today is airport, which is not the most original but it isn’t even 9 in the morning yet. Slack, please.

Airports are the places from where and to where airplanes travel. People flock to the airport to pick up and drop off. It’s the hub of the air traveling world. It’s where you see people from all over the place and can only wonder what their stories are.

I mean, think about it. People travel for all sorts of reasons, so the people in here are going to have tons of different stories. Like this woman here traveling with what looks like a 6-month old. This baby is already crying, and we haven’t even taken off. I’m sure she’s not traveling with a baby for her health. Or comfort. People travel for vacations, business, funerals, weddings, births, missions, education, adventure, escape…

I wonder what I’ve got on my flight.

Fortunately, my lap is now crumb – free, so I am clear to be an adult again.

Off we go. From this airport and to another.