“Mmm…I’m not as excited for my birthday as I was last year,” she says seriously. Eight-almost-nine seriousness. Confident and sullen. Maybe she will be more like her aunt after all. God help her…
“I don’t want to grow up,” she says from her bunkbed, flipping through a picture book. “I wanna stay a kid.”
“Ah, being a grownup can still be fun,” I say, mustering all the sincerity I can. Being a grownup hasn’t been so fun for me lately. But that is my choice, and that’s the advantage.
“Well, there are some things I’m excited for,” she perks a little.
“Oh yeah?” I ask, intrigued by her life goals. Will she be a dancer? Is she excited to drive, to baby-sit maybe?
“Yeah,” she looks up. “By the time I’m as old as my baby-sitter, like graduating high school,” now she’s leaning over the side of the bed, the daydream inches from her face… “I want to buy a whole pack of gum and put it all in my mouth at once!”
I stare. She’s not joking. “Just to feel what it tastes like to have a whole pack in my mouth,” she concludes with a little nod.
I sit silent. Stunned maybe. Maybe I expected something different out of an eight-almost-nine year old. I can’t remember what I was planning at that age. I like to think it was something grand, but maybe it ran along the lines of eating as much candy as I wanted too.
There was the time my mom gave in and let me go wild on my halloween candy, then held my hair back as I puked and promised never to do it again. So yeah…I guess a whole pack of gum is a good 10-year plan.
“Well,” I finally say, “That sounds like an achievable goal…” I decide not to tell her that I could probably use my naughty aunt powers to make that goal a reality tomorrow. Because then she’d have to rethink her whole life, and what kind of birthday present would that be, right when you think you have it all figured out?