Embracing the tiny, Day 18: Land of the Super Grown-ups

brass door handle that says "pull"

Do you remember what the world looked like when you were four years old?

How tall everything was, and how mysterious? How grownups navigated these mysterious things with astonishing agility—driving cars, getting on and off buses at the right stops, counting change, ordering food. And how they seemed to just know, without anyone having to show them (much less show them again and again, as you needed to learn things like shoelaces and chopsticks and bedtime).

When you spied something with a sign on it, with letters or instructions, you clung to it: it was a hint, a clue, some foothold in this bewildering world you would never, ever master. You’d whisper the word to yourself if you could, working out the letters, testing.

You do master it, of course, or at least some of it: adding up numbers and signing your name and cooking a hamburger. Other parts remain always a little out of reach, the domain of SuperGrownups who know how to navigate the rapids of change, or can manage to remember that the blues, too, will pass.

Perhaps that’s what’s so comforting about coming across one of those old signs in the wild now, when you are tall enough to reach for the handle from the top. I learned this, you think. At some point, I will learn the rest of it.

And you whisper to yourself as your fingers curl around the dented brass bar.



This is Day 18 of a 21-day series. For more scoop on the who/what/why, go here.


  1. I LOVE your posts. This one is so good. I spent most of my childhood completely baffled at how the world works. I’ve never heard anyone else put those thoughts to words the way you just did. :)

  2. When my kids were young they thought I was a god, able to do nearly anything. As they grew into teenagers they learned I was a mere mortal. It was so disappointing for them that they acted like teenagers. Yes, they even thought that they were smarter, much smarter than me. I think it’s one of the major problems we encounter with our children – that phase when they learn we’re simply human.
    To impress them now, I guess I’d have to become one of those super grown-ups.

  3. What a wonderful and nostalgic journey this post guided me through. I remembered little mesmerized me, watching my grandfather scrape off his whiskers with care and precision. The shaving cream, the straight razor, his mirrored image. It was all so ceremonial. I miss that man.

  4. When I was little, I’d sit beside my mother’s sewing maching and watch with wonder as she put in zippers and made wonderful buttonholes and sewed all the clothes for her four girls. Much later, as a young woman with not much money she told me: “If you can read, you can sew.” So I taped the pattern instructions to the wall in front of my new machine and sat down and made myself a dress (remembering all the little tricks she’d explained and demonstrated when I didn’t know I was “learning”) …and then I made a tablecloth…and curtains…and bedspreads…and Halloween costumes – and t finally a robe for my mother.I love these tiny posts you’re doing. They are simply delicious.

    1. What a great story, Ellen! And how totally, exactly true, that thing about learning while you don’t even know you’re learning.

      I also love your mom’s very simple, gentle, but firm guidance: “If you can read, you can sew.”

      Thanks for sharing it here.

  5. LOVE the series, love this one in particular.

    For “country mouse” me, it’s hailing a cab. It’s my favorite part of going to the movies, that I might see someone stand there with an arm up and then *whoosh* they’re gone. Holden Caulfield could get a cab, which intimidated me right out of my high school gourd.

    I have procured cabs at airports. Baby steps.

  6. Oh! This post just reminded me of the day at the beginning of Kindergarten when I accidentally used the boys bathroom! I can remember so vividly the way the letters on the bathroom doors — like gibberish, especially the letters in “Girls” swimming around and communicating absolutely nothing to me.

    Reading those two words seems like such a simple thing to master, and yet your post shined some light on how, simple as it is, the effect is still astonishingly grand.

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