It is a fact universally acknowledged that little kids enjoy waving at things -- passing trains, cars, ferries, planes -- much more than adults, and I was no exception. I recall one time vividly -- I was eight years old and small, small enough to cram into the Dodge Caravan backseat that was supposed to seat just two people with my sister and a friend. While my dad harrumphed about traffic and the questionable legality of our seating arrangement and other Adult Things, his hand steadily on the wheel as we drove across the floating bridge into Seattle, I craned my neck back to look at the car behind us. I waved frantically.
And then, miraculously, the lady with blonde cropped hair driving the car behind us waved back.
I nudged my sister and our friend. "Look! She waved!"
The three of us all then began waving even more vigorously, and she waved back more, and then she opened her sunroof. We saw her slim, white hand emerge from the top of the car, suddenly waving like a kite loosed from its fetters.
I remembered this moment, which delivered such glee to us when it happened, because I was walking to class one sunny day, about to cross the street when a car braked to let me pass in front. The windows were all down and in the back four small kids with big grins all tried to stick their hands out the window, waving as vigorously as I had one day, some ten years ago. "Hello!" one girl yelled excitedly.
"Excited" isn't specific enough to describe her tone. It was the kind of tone you use when every word still feels new-ish. One day when I was small, I learned the word "exhausted." I said it over and over again as much as I could, described everyone and everything as "exhausted" or "exhausting." That new word tasted like candy the moment it touches your tongue, the moment when the sugar feels like liquid gold.
The kids waving made me smile, even laugh a little, so I waved back. Hesitant at first, and then more enthusiastically, until I had crossed and they were turning.
I remembered that woman in the car on the floating bridge, and a scene in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where Harry sees his future self (thanks to a Time Turner), and then I had a nonsensical thought -- is this what it feels like to see your future self cast a Patronus? But mostly, it made me feel adult, in a way I couldn't neatly describe as "sad" or "happy." I have become the blonde lady on the floating bridge, I thought; now, I was the one who was waving back.