Monday, March 11, 2013

I Guess This is Growing Up

A few things lately have made me realize that I became an adult.

My buddy's first girlfriend got married over the weekend and posted pictures to Facebook. My first girlfriend from high school has been married for probably a year now. I'm constantly referred to as "Mr. Otto." More than a few friends are talking about buying houses. The list goes on.

But what really struck home happened in the past couple of days.

In my job, I'm constantly dealing with adults or, at their youngest, kids in high school. Unfortunately, when I'm dealing with children, elementary school or younger, they're usually very sick with something like cancer or worse.

However, Sunday, during my customary time alone in the empty newsroom, I took a walk to the back where a wall of windows overlooks a private parking lot. That lot, at its east side, has a concrete block wall that starts low but ends up going pretty high. It continues around so that it basically forms the perimeter of a rectangle with one open end.

Occasionally, when I need time to think about how to do an article or just need some fresh air, I'll go outside and play wall ball with the tennis ball I keep in my desk there. As such, I know very intimiately that, at points, that wall can be a little high. Not gigantic, but six or seven feet, maybe more.

So, while standing in the back of the room, I noticed four boys, the youngest probably nine or so, the oldest 11, at most, alternating between carefully balancing and sprinting along the top of the wall.

I watched through the window blinds as they ran, arms pumping, or tip-toed, wings spread, along the wall. It seemed as if the tallest points were their favorite spots to run.

Watching, I waited for one of them to fall. It seemed inevitable. I thought about dialing up the Pottstown Police and letting them know they might want to come chase the kids off.

Then, I thought, "Why?"

I thought about playing with my buddies when I was their age, running through the branches of a 15-foot high treehouse, using a hatchet to cut down tall trees in my backyard, having long-range rock fights.

Watching the local boys running along the concrete walls, I realized that I would have loved doing that as a kid. Yes, it was dangerous, but it was probably some of the best fun they had all weekend. If they fell or got hurt, they'd be just as fine as me and my friends usually were (though, there was that one time I accidentally threw a stick [essentially a spear] into Scott's skull. That was a lot of blood.)

So I stayed and watched a little while longer before returning to my desk. After that, I made it a point to shuffle back and look out the window every ten minutes or so until they left, just to make sure they were fine.

Then, today, I stepped outside to just get a breath of air and cool down a little from the sometimes uncomfortably warm newsroom.

Checking my phone, I heard a couple of little boys, who turned out to be about six-years-old and eight, rounding the corner of the building. I glanced up, saw the pair coming, then looked back down at the texts on my phone.

They passed behind me, then I suddenly realized I needed to look up again.

The younger boy's face was turned skyward, blood, red like a Coca-Cola label, flowing from his nose. The older boy had a hand placed behind the boy's head, near his neck, gently guiding him as he walked.

"Are you alright?" I asked.

"Yeah, he's fine," the older boy said. The younger one tried to nod and grunted, "Uh-huh."

"He wasn't looking where he was going," the older boy explained, in a caring, scolding voice. "And he just ran into a pole. He's fine, though."

"Uh-huh," the little boy grunted again, louder, since they'd continued walking across the parking lot while they talked to me.

"Okay," I called back.

I pretended to keep checking my phone but kept watch out of the corner of my eye as they made their way through the parking lot and toward a home nearby. The older boy left the younger one as they neared the door so he could hold it open. Gently helping the younger boy inside, the older one closed the door behind them.

My cousin has two little boys about the age of the pair I saw today. I see them a lot and although I'm three times their age, my status with them is never quite "adult." It's mostly just "big kid."

Dealing with the two groups of kids over the last two days outside The Mercury and feeling the inkling of responsibility toward them really cemented that I'm somehow now an adult far more than having a career, a paycheck, a car, or debts has.

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