HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns

July 16, 2007

There is a child within all of us

My brother celebrated the big 16 this past week, the sweet 16, where you can start to explore blacktop you’ve never embarked upon before. The age where you can start to break out from your home and see what the world has to offer.

But, it’s also the age when you are becoming an individual, and sometimes, your family can be quite annoying.

We are taught in school about families coming in every shape and size, and from every background, but as time goes by, I think we just come to realize what our teachers were trying to say was that we are all coming from a different kind of weird uniqueness.

My family and I went out to dinner to celebrate my brother’s birthday at a relatively fancy place. The kind of place where you are suggested to be on your best behavior – but that doesn’t happen when my family gets together.

The dinner started out nicely, until our food came out.  I’ve been coined as the “klutzy” one of the family, and proved that once again. I managed to drop my chopsticks on the ground, and while I was trying to retrieve the lost stick, I proceeded to knock some spicy chicken into my sister’s non-washable purse.

This chain of events was simultaneously occurring while our waiter brought out our family-sized dishes – all the while giving me funny looks, the way strangers look at children having tantrums at Target.

I began to feel embarrassed, but instead of acting like an adult, I got a case of what I like to call the “history class giggles,” the kind of laughter that is induced when you are told to be quiet, which in turn creates a much larger urge to continue to laugh.

Naturally, due to the contagious nature of laughter, my entire family started to act loopy.

Now, my brother, the man of the hour, is very quiet and reserved, and quite embarrassed by the rest of his family’s behavior. Rightfully so, as my sister and I were putting food on each other laps while my father started throwing it across the table. The roles were reversed – my brother was the adult, and we acted as if we were just turning 16.

This made me think about a lot of things. It made me realize that there is a child within all of us, and sometimes, it takes age to realize that.

I am sure I was the same way at his age, embarrassed by acting out of the ordinary in a swanky environment.

But if you think about it – it doesn’t really matter. Sure, there may be a time and place for some things, but more than likely, you’re never going to see these people again, so have fun while you can, right?

I wonder when that changes – when you stop caring what other people think of you. Maybe, for some, it never does.

I think family has a lot to do with it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be your biological family, but that person or group of people you feel comfortable around – where you can throw caution to the wind and rice across the table.

Life can be serious sometimes, but most of it should just be laughed at. It should be a priority to celebrate the child of your heart – or you will start to get old and forget what it felt like to turn 16.

By the end of our dinner, it felt like we were just eating as a family at home – we all were laughing, the table was covered in rice, and the birthday sundae was demolished. My brother came around and smirked at all of us, to show us that he, too, was enjoying this Anderson event.

Overall, the celebration honored the occasion – that my brother was alive and well another year – laughing with the people that love him, even if it took a little bit to pull him out of his shell.