You know the epiphanies that occur during the sometimes awkward transition from college to full adulthood? We call them Second Puberty.
I tried not to trip over my wedge heels as I carried a heavy wrapped box into the bridal shower of one of my best childhood friends this weekend. Inside the box was a cake stand that doubles as a punch bowl when you turn it upside-down. I’d ordered it from my friend’s wedding registry at Williams-Sonoma and packed it home for the weekend, where I would be attending this shower and a baby shower for another old friend.
I was admittedly a little nervous, just like always when I get together with friends I haven’t seen in years. You never know how it’s going to be. Is the conversation going to come easy, or will it stall when you find you have nothing left in common? Will your friends have changed from their fun, quirky selves to people you hardly recognize?
The bride rushed up to welcome me in and introduced me to her future mother-in-law as the engagement ring on her just-manicured finger sparkled. It’s the real-deal version of the glitzy, fake diamonds we used to admire at Claire’s Accessories back when we were kids, I thought.
The bride got whisked away to another guest, and I sat down the gift in time to run into an old friend from elementary school that I hadn’t seen since the day I graduated high school eight years ago. We broke out into the standard but sincere “Oh-my-gosh-it’s-been-forever-how-are-you?!” reaction. As I congratulated her on her own recent engagement (I knew of it thanks to Facebook), my mind flashed back to the last time we’d had a real heart-to-heart.
We were 12, sitting out on the grass outside our elementary school and planning out what life would be like when we grew up. We scribbled predictions on a legal pad I’d borrowed from my dad’s office. I was going to have lavender bridesmaid dresses at my wedding, we decided, and she would have tulips. She said I would marry my 6th grade crush, Kevin.
The night before the shower, I’d gone through some old things and found that yellow piece of paper in an old shoebox labeled “6th grade notes” on the top shelf of my closet. In the stacks of notes neatly rubberbanded together were hilarious mementos from my childhood friends. A small piece of wide-ruled notebook paper from the now-bride read, “The reason I’m mad right now is that you guys keep interrupting me to talk about the movie Titanic.” In another envelope, a magazine clipping from Teen magazine was gluesticked to a piece of pink printer paper. The clipping described an online service that would email your crush and ask who they liked back–super high-tech for 1997. The caption written underneath to me said, “You should try this!” (presumably with Kevin).
As the shower went on, we talked about our new lives over tea, scones and chicken salad. We discussed our jobs. Our relationships. What our younger siblings are doing. Where we live. “My fiance and I are hoping to buy a house, but we’ve been looking for almost a year and haven’t found anything,” my newly-engaged friend said. “There’s just not a lot on the market in the area right now.”
It was at that point I had to step back for a moment.
We’ve all grown up and moved on from our doll-playing, note-writing kid selves. I know this. I’ve been married almost 4 years (to Not Kevin, by the way). I have a college diploma and dental benefits at work. But it still rattles my mind to go from swooning over Leonardo DiCaprio shouting “I’M KING OF THE WORLD!” to talking home mortgages in the span of a few (okay, so like 14) years. It doesn’t feel like that much time has passed, and yet so much in our lives has changed.
The next day in the hallway at church, I caught up with my pregnant friend–I’d gone to her shower over the weekend, too. We gossiped like old times, and then one of our parents’ friends from the congregation came up, pointed to her belly and asked deadpan, “Did something happen here?”
“Yep. I got knocked up,” she said.
I laughed–really hard.
Life for all of us has changed drastically–new jobs, house-hunting, and making human beings–but it hit me that the personalities of my old friends haven’t changed all that much. The spunk and sass and quirks are still there, and the adult symbols of baby bellies, wedding rings, and mortgage payments haven’t done a whole lot to change it. You can’t always know this until you’ve lived it, though. It’s an epiphany that took a few years of growing up to see.