Tuesday, June 4, 2013
Aging is a wonder for our entire lives. It comes in different forms, of course.
A six year old is in shock and awe over each 1/4 older they get: I'm-six and one sixteenth and by Christmas I'm gonna be six and a half! How old are you?
At 18, you can barely believe it as you graduate to the next level of adulthood. Then you're 21 and you're thinking, No way, I'm finally 21! And then, Ohmygosh, I'm 30!...and this is nothing like I thought it was gonna be. And that 'thought it was gonna be' runs the gamut from 'I thought I'd be a race car driver' to 'I thought I'd be a lion tamer' to 'I thought everything would be easier'.
Then you near the next wonder and the wonder beyond that and before you know it, you're almost at that "oh-my-god-I-am-almost -(insert whatever 2-digit number now leaves you in awe)".
Now, I'd never given much stressful thought to age, wasn't even sure I had an 'anxiety' number like so many around me seemed to have.
Then, as I neared 40,
it was 40.
It's three years later from when I started this post. Three years, a number of happy times, a number of disappointments and two crushing blows of sadness later, and aging has become less of a wonder and more of an interesting, if not quite balanced dance, between comfort and shock.
I've often heard women older than me lament that feeling of being invisible to anyone under 35. Since childhood I, myself, have always been entranced by the wit, humor and intelligence of older men and women, so I thought this more of a fear than a reality. I pooh-poohed it really. That is, until I attended my first 16 year old's birthday party as someone who is past the 35 mark. OMG, as the kids say.
Most of my young life, I'd been admired and thought hysterically funny by my niece and her friends. This is not to sound self-centered, purely an observation. We've been hanging out together since the day she arrived on earth and having always had a pretty close relationship, almost like friends more than relatives, I was considered the "Cool Aunt". Over the years, my sister sent me every school paper my niece wrote that mentioned my name and accomplishments, every 'what I want to be when I grow up' report that had my name filling in that blank.
All through elementary and middle school, as her circle of friends grew larger, I was at the car washes, the Halloween parades, the pancake breakfasts, the birthday parties, entertaining the kids and parents alike: The Funny Aunt, the Wacky Aunt, the Creative Aunt, the Witty Aunt! My loving and generous niece always made time for me. I was usually the first person she excitedly introduced as some new friend walked through the door.
Now, maybe I haven't been around as much for the last couple of years, those being her first two years of high school, new school, new friends and next thing you know, here comes 16! Yesterday was the birthday party.
Please believe me when I say, I hadn't necessarily anticipated giggling and laughing with her friends, throwing water-balloons, dressing up, doing impromptu dances, and getting into the general silliness we all did when she was a little girl, but I also was nowhere near ready for what I did encounter.
Yes, my incredibly sweet niece came in the door, gave me a huge hug, a big smile and skipped on out to the backyard. And like a pied piper, or the birthday girl of the day that she was, every girl followed behind her as I watched them file into the house: 24 girls, each one more beautiful than the last, long hair, short shorts, developed bodies, tiny bikinis during the swim-party part of the party, and nary a glance of eye-contact for the first three hours of what was looking to be a very long day.
None of them looked the slightest bit intrigued as to who I was as I set out plates and napkins, drinks and food. I could have been the pool cleaner for all the interest anyone showed. I was happy to see them entertaining themselves, chatting away furiously, as if they hadn't spent nearly everyday together for the last 9 months. I'd been told "at this age, they're either bored in five minutes or too excited to breath." They looked excited to me. I didn't even have to sneak away, nor did I sulk off, as I retired to the living room to eat lunch with my sister and brother-in-law. I couldn't very well mention my surprise or feeling of slight to these two who'd seen it all. So, I kept it to myself and wondered how I was going to break through, if at all, to this age that looked at me as not much more than 'old'.
Luckily, as we made our way to the next birthday destination, the Roller Rink, I had to take 4 girls in my car and we did talk and laugh and maybe even giggle as we made our way down the road. Windows wide open, yelling to each other over traffic, everyone's hair but mine whipping in the wind, I started to feel part of something. Once at the roller rink, I helped a couple girls get their feet up on four wheels and eventually got out on the floor myself! My older sister and I reverted to our own youth and even managed to keep upright while laughing the whole time. On the drive home, I took 4 different girls and, in a very short amount of time, we got into some serious topics. They listened intently as we discussed things they'd only ever heard about, never met anyone who'd experienced it, and somewhere in there, we all had something in common. They told me that they wished these things were taught at school by someone who 'gets it'.
I finally felt like that adult.
And I was in awe.