When I grow upMonday, November 11, 2013
A few years ago a friend of mine threw a fancy dress party, the theme of which was "dress up as what you wanted to be when you grew up." Most of us at the party were lawyers. Funnily enough, nobody was dressed as one.
I have no clear memory of wanting to be anything in particular when I was little, so I thought I'd just have to make something up. As a child I was an incurable bookworm, always with my nose in an Enid Blyton or a Baby-Sitters Club, so maybe I wanted to be a librarian. Or perhaps an architect, since I would spend hours laying walls of books across the carpet as houses for my dolls. I was crap at ballet, but every little girl wants to be a ballerina, don't they? Or a teacher? Or an astronaut? Surely I must have had some childhood aspirations?
After days of racking my brain - and raiding my wardrobe - I was no closer to coming up with a suitable costume. So I called the one person who I thought might have an idea. I called my mum.
My expectations, it has to be said, were low. If I couldn't remember, why on earth would she? Nevertheless, I asked her. What did I want to be when I grew up?
The answer was instant, and definitive. Not an artist, or a princess, or a deep sea diver. Not an explorer, a singer, a mother of four.
When I was a child, my mother informed me, the thing I desperately wanted to be when I grew up was a window cleaner.
A WINDOW CLEANER. I did not see that one coming.
Of course, it makes perfect sense. I'm a fairly solitary person, I enjoys tasks that produce quantifiable results and I am incredibly nosy. Plus, overalls? Comfiest party attire ever.
Lately, I've been thinking about this story more often. My granny passed away last month, and my mum's health and general well-being have taken a bit of a tumble. When you contemplate the loss of someone close to you, you think about all the things you love about them that, one day, will exist only in your memory. You try to remember everything you can, recite it over and over like an incantation.
But it's not just them that you lose. It's yourself, too, or rather the version of yourself that they remember. Nobody will see you quite the way they did. Nobody will share their exact recollection of the big events and tiny moments that have made up your life. Nobody will know that your four-year-old self dreamt of cleaning windows for a living. (Well, except for all of you now. But you know what I mean.)
This time of year is all about remembrance. If you don't know what you wanted to be when you grew up, there's no better time than the present to ask that one person who will remember. Their answer might surprise you.
Top image by Sara Perovic via her flickr