On my way home from a housewarming in SF, I stopped at one of the San Carlos bars. A person on Tribe described the Carlos Club as "retro", whereas the other three or four are "dive". The Carlos Club has a big, bright, blinking 50s-style sign right across from the train station. Inside it just made me grin, being tricked out in pure bar decor from my parents' youth. Red walls, wood paneling in various places, worn bar that looks like it's wood veneer. It's clean, the furniture is unscarred, and it's reasonably lit for a bar: you can see everyone's face, but it's all dim indirect light, so I'm willing to drink there. And there was karaoke, and the place was mostly twentysomethings, seemingly younger. (Given that Northern California bars are hangouts for (a) single guys and (b) women with their SOs, I'd rather (b) was cutish twentysomethings, so that works out.)

At a planning barbecue this afternoon, for one last Woom before we end the party for good, were a couple of children of friends. One, sort of an adopted niece at this point, I've known her whole life (we'll call her Camille); the other is a 12-year old boy I get along with (Peter). I started thinking about how I relate to kids; basically, recalling that I am mostly unable to connect with them except to treat them like proto-adults, just people who are nowhere near grown into their full abilities yet. This works better than I might have expected, since I do recognize their limitations and need for boundaries. Kids live in their own special mental worlds, which I remember vividly, and they have thoughtful stuff to say--not all of it interesting, but that hardly makes them different from adults. I've enjoyed watching Camille and my nieces try to solve problems and make sense of the world with sharp and obviously human intelligences, but with incomplete synapses and experiences and context. Last time I saw my younger niece, for example, she didn't quite comprehend the idea of rotation, but she doggedly tried to solve the puzzle we were working on anyway, saying "No!" when I asked if she wanted to do something else.

So treating kids as people, really my only option to not feel like a complete idiot around them, puts me in a position of connecting with them, if we get along, in this kind of neat mentor dynamic. This brings up all kinds of interesting memories of the mentor types in my life growing up...neighbors, schoolmates, kids I met on vacation, uncles. What did I learn from them? What do I have to give to kids now? However it ties in with my experience growing up, with the kids I know now I feel like I mainly want them to be themselves, and to be able to maintain themselves while being happily engaged and involved with everyone else. So I want to see them for who they are, and hear what they have to say; and I want them to respect themselves and others.

There's actually a book about this, Taking Our Places, which I didn't have the patience to read, but now that I'm thinking about it, maybe I should try again. I like the book's central premise, that contrary to our habitual view of "growing up" as becoming rigid and stuck and unhappy, really growing up is growing in awareness, curiosity, and engagement with yourself and with everyone else. Maybe it's harder if you do nutty things like get married or have kids, but the way my life has gone, my options have consistently been to either grow into a more flexible, serene adult, or be miserable and probably mentally ill. So I personally have enjoyed growing up.

As I've been reading so many books from the library lately, I've also been thinking about when I decide I'm going to buy a book instead of borrow it. Since I can borrow most of what I'd like to read, and I very rarely read books more than once every few years, if that, buying a book becomes a choice of, not really decoration, but maybe self-description. I want this book as part of my environment; I want it available for re-reading and perusal at will, and I want its constant presence with the rest of my stuff. I had a copy of Passionate Marriage out from the library, but I found it such a terrific guide to how we grow in relation to another person that it became more personal, and I wanted my own copy to have around and maybe write notes in. The privileged bookshelf next to my bed reveals, I think, a sense of fun, and an unending, wide-ranging, occasionally desperate drive to understand everything. Big surprise, I know.

Ever feel like your path chooses you?