When was the first time you really felt like a grown up (if ever)?
This is an interesting question, because it certainly depends on the meaning of grown-up. There have been a number of times when I was convinced I was grown-up, but in looking back, I know I was in error. Why? Because I am only partially grown-up now. and I don’t think it’s something you can lose, once you’ve got it.
I remember feeling very grown-up on my tenth birthday because I finally needed two numbers to signify my age. A similar thought occurred when I was 13, and when I graduated from high school at seventeen. I realized I was not grown-up after graduation when I and my siblings headed off to Woodstock, a concert event for which we had bought tickets in February. At the time, one could buy alcohol in New York at the age of eighteen, which both my siblings had obtained, while I could not. They stopped and bought appallingly flavored brandies that stunk up the car when they opened them. We thought we had left on time, but had a stunning epiphany that tickets would not be needed as we joined the slightly moving traffic jam trying to get to the concert. We arrived as it began to rain. My brother and I each bought a triangular plastic blow up pup tent that would keep us dry if nothing else. My sister decided to forgo the tent, and spent a miserable weekend as a result.
My memories of the concert are slim. I remember Melanie singing about the roller skate key, and waking up to Sly and the Family Stone. I remember Joan Baez’ ethereal voice filling the air. I remember doing the cheer with Country Joe and the Fish. I could go on, there are ten or fifteen more incidents I recall, but it would bore you. The bottom line is that I did not feel very grown-up as we pulled our car out of the mud, and took off our wet clothes only to discover that our clean clothes were wet too. My mother had ordered us to be home by 7 pm, but that was closer to the time that we finally hit the highway. She had apparently worried herself sick the whole weekend because of the news reports and pictures coming out of the television and newspapers nonstop.
I don’t know what happened to those orange tents. I have no recollection bringing them home, so it is possible we gave them to other people who were staying until the bitter end. We missed Jimi Hendrix and others, and were enraged at my mother’s demand that we leave early. In the fullness of time, we didn’t miss anything earth shatteringly important, and what we missed is now available somewhere on tape or video. At the time it was the most important thing in the world. But only a few short weeks later, I was off to my freshman year in college, which was in its way more exciting and earth shattering than Woodstock.