When we were little, it was easy: everyone was Mister This, Mrs That, Morah Something, or Rabbi OrAnother.
It got complicated when I called a friend’s mother “Mrs. Mother” and she replied, “Oh, you can call me Miri now.”
Then I noticed a trend: middle-aged married women introducing themselves to me by their first names.
Granted, I’m a lot closer in age to middle-aged now. But it can’t possibly be okay to just call everyone by their first names now, can it? What’s the new rule?
I’m probably slow getting out of the gate on this one, but until recently, I wasn’t expanding my circle of middle-aged acquaintances very much. So this is a very new issue.
It would be nice to know for certain that every day in every way one is getting better and better, but it’s hard to keep track of how much one changes over time. I feel like we ought to keep some kind of record like the yardstick on the wall so we can go back and see how we measure up to last year. Like some document every Rosh Hashana detailing our defining characteristics, goals, ideas, top list of things to work on, etc, to be reviewed annually for signs of progress.
Of course, that would require being able to pinpoint everything of interest that could change. It never really works that way. I was thinking about this while toodling through the Alleghenies with a friend one lovely afternoon. She was driving and I was sitting back and admiring the scenery – the rolling green hills spotted with the occasional tree jutting into the azure sky, etc, not to mention the red barns and so on.
I was thinking how, when I was younger and we were on road trips, the parents would point out the mountains rising in the distance or the colors of the foliage and urge us kids to appreciate the scenery. I would nod with minimal politeness and ask if we were there yet. My obsession with knowing if we were at our destination could only be mitigated by something truly exciting, such as a cow. It didn’t matter that, in the course of the time it takes to drive past a pasture, a cow does nothing more exciting than a tree. Cows were interesting. Trees were not.
And now, here I was admiring trees. Like my parents had. It seemed a sign that I’d reached some sort of benchmark. I was adult because I appreciated pretty things that weren’t furry. Like scenery. I could enjoy a drive just because of the scenery. Why, I bet if we passed a cow right now I wouldn’t more than give it an indulgent glance–
“Look! Cows!” my friend said.
“Where? Where?” I jerked out of my reverie and craned around to catch the field of bovines.
Okay, scratch the second half of the theory. I still like cows. But I also like scenery. Can I be a grown up with an inner child?
Does one ever grow out of liking cows?