October 06, 2011

aged to "perfection"

The other day a group of us sat around choosing the age we would stay forever, if we could.  Some chose early 20's (myself included): newly married, great new job, no responsibilities after 5 p.m., no stretch marks.  The rest chose the year that the last kid leaves the house.  I almost chose that one.  Peaceful dinners, fresh mornings, and time left to chase our (other) dreams.

One friend chose whatever year she is in.  Darn.  That was the right answer.

Today is my 31st birthday.  I sniffled to my husband while the toddlers napped, "I had fun at McDonald's this morning, I really did, and I loved watching the kids feed the pigeons at the park, and our date last night was wonderful, and I had a lovely lunch out with Alisa and Anita today, its not that..."  

"What is it, then?" he asked.  Sensible question.

"Its just that, what I really want is for my big brother to take me out for pancakes at Jackie's Place.  What I really want is to be sitting in Sue-Sue's living room eating her chili, followed by a huge piece of chocolate cake with boiled icing from Paul's Bakery.  I just want my dad to make me his lemon chicken, and I want my mom and to make me one of her homemade birthday cards and hand it to me IN PERSON.  I want to go home.  Just for a day.  Just for today.  On my birthday."

The thing is, "home" is not just 7,000 miles away anymore.  The things I remember about "home" are in another time, now, and that time is lost forever.  Sue-Sue passed away over a year ago.  Her living room sits empty and dark this fall.  There is no one cooking chili in the kitchen.  My parents' house has been sold.  Jerry and Marcy now watch their news magazine programs from the sofas of their nice, tidy condominium.  Time marches on, so they say; but it would seem that in my case, time carried off a whole lot of loot when it went.

And yet, with the passing of time comes treasures gained.  Maturity and wisdom, for starters, along with a gradual mellowing, a settling of spirit, a tenderness, a knack for empathy, a greater measure of patience, a tendency toward sincerity, a quickness to forgive, and a longing for what is coming in the end.  The things that burn-up my early-20s friends just don't do it for me anymore.  I look to my friends in their 40s and think them the most beautiful women I've ever seen.  A slightly curved back from years of holding children.  Lines around the eyes and mouth from laughing at their husbands' corny jokes, from laughing with girlfriends they've known since grade school, from laughing with their moms over everything under the sun. Gray hairs around the temple from too many nights sitting up with feverish toddlers, or waiting on phones to ring, or burying parents who died too early.  Ringlets gone limp, sweet voices worn thin; all these things the world tells us we should mask, put-off, deny, cover-up, dye, and moisturize.  What a shame.  There is nothing in the world more beautiful than the tell-tale signs of a life lived in honorable service to the business of womanhood.

Please remind me of that in 20 years, ok?

That said, I am now prepared to officially declare the age I would stay forever.  31.  Why?  Because I'm just old enough to look back at my 20's and say, "Wow, I've come a long way," and I'm just romantic enough to still think graying temples are beautiful.  Like a good cheese, I am ready for the cracker.  Like a good avacado, I am neither green and firm, nor spotty and mushy.  I have just enough wisdom to do a few things right, and just enough energy to carry them out.

Right where I'm at, yep, that's where I'd stay.  Eight little arms wrapping around my neck every day and one handsome guy sauntering in to steal a kiss while I stir the soup.  I think I can safely say that it doesn't get a whole lot better than this.
My birthday date with D. Rupp.  Masala chicken and Diet Cherry Coke.  Mmmm.