Thursday, August 27, 2015

Growing Up

Well, my feet they finally took root in the earth, but I got me a nice little place in the stars
And I swear I found the key to the universe in the engine of an old parked car
I hid in the mother breast of the crowd, but when they said "Pull down," I pulled up
Ooh . . . growin' up

 - - Bruce Springsteen, Growin' Up

My younger son went back to college just yesterday while my older one endlessly debates about the day he will return. The older one, though, did something yesterday that made Bruce Springsteen's song, Growin' Up, pop into my head.

I came to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band later than I should have. As a college junior, we rewrote the words to the unofficial anthem of the state of New Jersey, Born to Run, for our Junior Show. I had never heard it before (I know - shocking and embarrassing) and, even now, it is those lyrics that I recall, not the real ones. After that, Bruce faded from my memory.  

But not for long.

In law school, I met - and later married - a Springsteen super fan. He had been to dozens of concerts and now I, too, have been to a a score of concerts in the band's home turf - the New Jersey Meadowlands, at either the stadium (the old one that has been hideously replaced) or the arena (which is now closed and sits idle). We yell "Bruce," sounding as if we are booing him. I sing along as best I can like everyone else and wait for Thunder Road and Born to Run and Born in the U.S.A. My kids have been a few times themselves and my younger son and I went together once without my husband. We left before it ended as it was a school night and as we walked to the parking lot, Thunder Road echoed from the stadium.  I had missed my favorite song.

Another time, just a couple of years ago, my husband, younger son and I had magnificent seats in the new stadium and dined in the swanky area reserved for special guests. (We weren't special guests - those tickets just happened to be available.) Had it rained, we would have remained dry as we were lucky enough be under a roof. We watched in amazement as a couple in our direct line of vision two rows ahead did everything but make out right there in front of all of us to see. More than a few people murmured that they needed to get a room.

But I digress. I don't know the lyrics to Growin' Up and had to find them on an internet site.  It was the refrain that ran around in my head after my older son, now 21, but still my baby, asked if I wanted him to help me empty the dishwasher.  He had been doing that quite frequently this summer, asking if he could help with the laundry, with setting the table, with the trash. He took full responsibility for walking the dog this entire summer so when he leaves in a couple of days, I will have to get back in the habit of doing so myself.

I suddenly realized that he had grown up. Sure, he is 21 and lives in an apartment and has to shave (infrequently, but still) and drives a car and had a summer job. So, I obviously knew he had grown up.

And, yet, I didn't. He was still the little boy who would let me put temporary tattoos on his face for the Independence Day Parade and go to the Central Park Zoo to see the penguins. Not until that moment when the song popped into my head, a song I had probably not heard in several years, did I really know. 

Growing up.  

Grown up. 

Yes, my son, a college senior, responsible for his own life in most respects, has grown up.

And, frankly, I do not like it.  Not one bit.  

Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. -- Chili Davis