I reject the number 18. Eighteen.
In the picture above, I am two-years old and my dad is thirty. The age difference between my dad here and me now is the same as the age difference between my baby sister and I. It seems inconceivable (to quote one of my favorite characters), that that tiny little girl headed to the pumpkin patch is already so grown up, just like it seems inconceivable right now that someday my baby sister will be all grown up, too. I reject the idea that childhood simply stops when you blow out the candles on your eighteenth birthday. Age is more complicated than that and – as I’m learning – age is very different in the United States of America than it is in Brazil.
Here, many of my Brazilian peers are married or already have their own children, while most of my American peers are just starting college. My American friends are trying to figure out how to do their own laundry for the first time; my Brazilian peers are busy cooking and cleaning for their own kids.
When you are eighteen-years old in Brazil, you can get your driver’s license.
When you are eighteen-years old in Brazil, you can drink.
When you are eighteen-years old in Brazil, you are tried as an adult in a court of law.
When you are eighteen-years old in Brazil, you are required to vote or pay a fee.
When you are eighteen-years old in Brazil, you are – without a doubt – an adult.
Today, instead of taking the bus home from Projeto Lontra to Lagoa da Conceição, one of the veterinarians, who lives in the next town over, gave me a ride home. We spent the car ride home discussing the best places to surf on the island, our thoughts on sharks, Tupac, family, and sea turtles. Even though the wind was whipping and the rain was pouring, everything seemed fine until we entered Lagoa da Conceição and the car suddenly ran out of gas. I thanked Eduardo for the ride and he walked off to by gas, while I walked the rest of the way home along the lagoon. I spent my last evening as a seventeen-year old walking home into the sunset in a downpour while the waves washed over up over the sidewalk. I was far too wet for my raincoat to matter and all I could think was that I really could have used some boots because they would have made bigger splashes in the puddles.
So, Mom, Dad, even though when I blow out the candles tomorrow, I will officially become an adult, I will still be your little girl. I still have a lot of questions to answer. I still have a lot of growing up to do.