Define

Grace Mannix - Senegal


December 9, 2014

Hey, Mom and Dad?

There’s this playground I’ve always wanted to go to. It’s a bit farther away than the one we’re used to and I’m not really sure how to get there or if it has the swings, and I don’t know if the other kids there will be nice, or if I should bring any toys from home in case I get bored, but I really wanna go. Please.

No, no, that’s okay. I want to go on my own. You have other kids to take care of as well. It’s something I have to do. Before I go, I can dust the living and dining rooms with the yellow bottle that sprays and the little towel that wipes the dirt away. There’s no need to worry about me, Mom. I can tie my shoes all by myself if the laces come undone like you taught me, and I think I’ve seen you put band aids on me enough times that I can do it alone if I fall and scrape my knee. Yes, Dad, I promise to look both ways before crossing the street and to put my jacket on if I get cold.

There is just one thing, though… Could you drive me to the airport?

Nine days until I reach the “Age of Majority.” Nine days until you are no longer legally held accountable for my actions, until you can’t stop me from buying a drink in Europe, until I can attend an R-rated movie without you being there (after reading this again, I realize that voting for President probably should have been first on the list). As a matter of fact, flying to Senegal was the last time I could keep my shoes on through airport security, and the last time I needed you guys to sign a paper allowing me to travel independently as a minor.

There is such a crazy juxtaposition of being an “adult” and still being dependent on others at this point in my life, especially being here. I often see parallels between myself and my baby sister, Awa, both of us learning from the inside out, head down. We can put fragments of sentences together, use gestures, or cry, to communicate our basic needs. I’m in a place where everything is new again; all that is expected of me is to learn and stay safe. Yet, where I am at home calls for me to think three steps ahead, to forward scans of medical receipts, and email college coaches.

In less than two weeks, you will tell me I am now a legal adult with a whole new world of responsibilities. I’ll tell you I don’t feel like one. I’ll tell you I can still fit in the tubes at Chuck-E-Cheese, I still sleep with the blanket you wrapped me in going home from the hospital 18 years ago, and will still order a Happy Meal at McDonald’s. I’ll come home with stories of my ups and downs despite the lack of swing sets in Senegal, and stories of how quickly we fellows made friends with each other, so you can be proud. You see? There is no need to worry about me. Even if I am turning 18, no age or responsibility can strip me of my everlasting childlike fascination with exploring.

Grace Mannix