My mother has always said that I was born 35-years-old. My mother is rarely wrong. Aside from looking much older than I was -I towered over my cousins and elementary classmates who were my age until 6th grade when I just stopped getting taller- I acted much older as well. I spent a lot of my childhood watching the O.J. Simpson trial, Bob Ross, and University of Kentucky basketball games in between my Nick Jr. shows and my mom’s soaps, so I became worldly at an early age. My favorite uncle told me stories about being stationed in Germany in the 1980’s during his stint in the Army that made me want to learn, grow, and experience all that life had to offer. I recognized that my elders knew what they were talking about and I should probably soak up everything they had to say. After all, Chris Farley said it best: “You can get a good look at a t-bone by sticking your head up a bull’s ass, but wouldn’t you rather take the butcher’s word for it?” However, despite heeding all of their warnings and retaining most of their advice, I was not, am not, and will never be prepared for adulthood.
It just kind of crept up on me. One day I was still losing baby teeth and the next I was searching the local want ads for affordable housing that allowed pets. (Note: I quickly discovered these places almost NEVER exist.) No one had ever explained the concept of security deposits and setup fees, budgets, or planning ahead when grocery shopping. And really, no one really explained how expensive and frustrating it would be to try to get started in the world on your own. I didn’t realize how much I took for granted until I realized I didn’t even own a can opener, and then it really began to sink in: being an adult is really, really hard.
The day my then-fiance (now husband) and I moved into our first home together, the landlords were not expecting us. Let it be known that our landlords are also close friends, and they thought we would be moving in a week later than we did, so they weren’t even finished cleaning up after the last tenant. She had lived there for somewhere around seven years and hadn’t even unpacked some of her boxes. Our dogs sleep in the tiny spare bedroom that once acted as her storage container for cardboard, so you can imagine what kind of condition our love shack was in the day we arrived. We also found that the heat didn’t work. We’re from the South, so it’s generally about 70 degrees outside up until mid-November, but this particular October got cold a lot faster than usual, go figure. We had nothing but a space heater to keep us warm until the HVAC guy could get to us. One may assume, “Aw, they kept each other warm by embracing the whole night through. So young, so in love!” Wrong. So wrong. We were exhausted from unpacking and moving all day, so we fell asleep before 10 and woke up cramped from sleeping in the fetal position all night because a space heater is not enough! At that time, Mr. Cooper worked 3rd shift, so I was home alone at night throughout the week. Did I mention that we live within spitting distance of two graveyards at the end of a dead end gravel road? Or that I’m a big baby and I have night terrors on a regular basis? Or how about that I have a wild imagination mixed with pessimism and the ability to jump to the absolute worst conclusion, no matter how far fetched it may be, in a single bound? Let me explain.
The mister left for work around 10:30 which left me to my own devices in our little corner of the world. Within 5 minutes of him leaving, I discovered that the air return in the hall floor is a little uneven. How you might ask? My sock caught on the sharp edge as I was walking down the hallway to the kitchen, which tripped me (also let it be known that I have the grace of a hippo.) I fell and I fell hard which shook the entire house and nearly broke my big toe. Before I even peeled myself off the ground, a tiny cockroach skittered across the floor a foot from my face. Panicked and wide-eyed at this point, the only thing left to do was scream. I suppose my big rumble drew him out of his hiding place and he was coming to me for help. Did I mention that I’m also terrified of bugs? I decided to call it a night, but because I was convinced a thousand roaches would pack me off in the middle of the night, sleep did not come easily. Once I finally fell asleep, I was awoken from my terror-induced slumber by the high pitched shrill of an old smoke detector. “Oh my God! What do I do?! What do I do?! Stop, drop, & roll, I know, but what if the fire is on the other side of the bedroom door?!”
At 1 AM, I made an adult choice to save myself. I called my mom. She had clearly been asleep for a few hours by the sound of her voice, “Mom! The smoke detector is going off! What do I do?!”
“Well, are you even sure there’s a fire?”
“No! I’m afraid to go look.” Duh, Mom. Come on.
After a long pause that I’m sure was accompanied by her shaking her head at her intelligent, self-sufficient, Valedictorian daughter, I heard a sigh followed by, “Honey. You’ve got to go check. Did you all change the battery in the one in the kitchen like they told you?”
What would I do without my mother? As it turned out, she was right so all I had to do was take the battery out. The next night at supper was an interesting one. We had finally made a trip to the grocery store, and I had turned my pot roast (that was way too big for my tiny crock pot and oozed grease all over the counter top earlier that day) into a homemade vegetable soup. We sat quietly at the table, Mr. Cooper seemed to be enjoying it and all was well, but suddenly I couldn’t hold it together anymore. We still didn’t have any heat. We were basically broke after buying everything we needed at the store and in the days leading up to moving. I wasn’t sleeping well by myself, even with the help of “50 First Dates” playing all night to distract me from my paranoia. Most of all, I missed my mom and I couldn’t keep it together anymore. I dropped my spoon in my bowl and my chin started quivering like a toddler who’d just been told she couldn’t have the toy she wanted. Poor Mr. Cooper didn’t know what to say and looked genuinely concerned for me, “Babe what’s wrong? Are you okay?”
Then the dam broke and the tears started flowing. “Noooo *sniffle* I *sniff* miss *sniff* my mooooommmm. And this is *sniff* really harddddd!”
And you know what? It still is. I sit at my kitchen table, sipping my coffee and watching the snow fall for the 9th time in the past two weeks wishing I didn’t have so much to do. We have a wedding to attend at 5 PM today but we have to get groceries and a gift for my Papaw’s 75th birthday before then. Because no one does any of that stuff for you when you’re on your own.