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WHEN WE KNOW EVERYTHING

Cindy Maddera

Today the Cabbage turns four. She's been talking about her birthday party at Chuck E Cheese's for almost a year now. If we were in the car passing a Chuck E Cheese, she'd say "Hey! You know that place? That's Chuck E Cheese and I get to go there for my birthday." The last few weeks have been a count down of sentences that start with "my birthday". Last Wednesday we were sitting on the couch watching Peppa Pig. As the Cabbage stared at the TV with that glassy eyed zombie stare that kids get sometimes, she said "When I'm four, I will know everything.". Michael said "Oh yeah? What's three plus three?" and without missing a beat or turning her eyes from the TV, the Cabbage replied "six". Michael and I looked at each other over the top of her head with eyes wide in surprise. Maybe she will know everything. 

I'm sure we all reached an age where we thought that this would be the year that all knowledge and wisdom would be bestowed upon us. Your fairy godmother would show up and bippity boppity boo, you would not only know everything, but you'd finally be tall enough to ride that crazy roller coaster at the amusement park. I'm not sure I ever really had that clarity. I knew that nine was an important birthday because that's when Mom said I could get my ears pierced. Sixteen is always big because of the whole driver's license thing except I didn't really know how to drive when I turned sixteen. The driver's license didn't come to me for another five or six months after turning sweet sixteen. Then comes eighteen when they tell you that you are now an adult. You get to vote, but you're still not old enough to buy beer. I was so nerdy that I couldn't wait to vote. My parents had been taking me with them to the polling place my whole life and finally I was old enough to get that "I voted" sticker for actually voting.

Twenty one is the birthday where someone buys you twenty one shots and you spend the late hours of the night puking your guts out and eating greasy diner food at three in the morning or Taco Bell. Except, I didn't do this either. I went to a twenty one and over dance club and bought a fuzzy navel. It didn't taste all that great and the whole using my id to buy alcohol for the first time was anticlimactic. If I ever thought that I knew everything, my twenties would be the years that I learned that I knew nothing. I think I believed that when I turned thirty, I may not know everything, but I'd finally be a real live grownup. Up until then, I'd only been pretending to have a clue as how to negotiate the dance floor of adulthood. My thirties have definitely been my "I am now an adult!" years. I've done my most grownup of grownup tasks like buying a lawnmower and a house. I held my husband's hand through a crushing diagnosis and death and then I took care of all the things that follow the loss of a spouse. I fixed that lawnmower when it broke down. I took on a relationship with a man who has a kid. I have a car seat in my car. 

But being a grownup doesn't mean you know everything either. Maybe when I'm forty? Fifty? One hundred? I predict that in my last breath, in that very last fleeting moment, I will know everything. Part of the charm of life are the new things learned daily, the adventure of discovery. You can't tell a four year old that knowing everything is over rated though. You can't tell them that one of the great joys of life is learning or that we continue to make new discoveries every day like the plate tectonics on Europa. Instead, you just nod your head and say "that's great!". But for the Cabbage, my wish for her would be to not know everything, just want to know everything.