We often emphasize age as a number, a calculation of the days, months, and years we’ve been awake and living. Yet, as the saying goes, our age is also a mental state, a series of milestones that remind us of where we’ve been, and where we’re going.
I am five years old today. A desire burns to jump into a puddle and soak the shoes on my feet; to skip down the driveway and stop to draw hopscotch squares on the pavement with yellow and pink chalk. I want to smear a little dirt on my face. The weather is the warmest it has been in four months and it is bringing out the child in me.
“Lou, Lou, skip to my Lou
I can do this, how about you?
I can do this faster than you!
I can go backwards, how about you?
Fancy stepping only I do
Skip to my Lou, my darling”
In two days, when the high is 18 degrees and warmth is absent, I will return to a curmudgeonly Golden Girl in her long underwear, age 70. Now, in the present, the soldier who was the recipient of my “Happy Monday!” at the grocery store smiled back at the little girl with pig tails who gladly showed him ALL of her teeth and a glint of joy in her eyes. Spring is the age of youth, the age of a season that brings forth new life and wonderful smells. It is almost here.
Ah, yes, the smell of dirt. I am 38 and on a motorcycle. It is April, the first ride of the season. Residual streaks of road salt, most of which has been washed away by rain, remain near the shoulder of the road. Green grass appears by the side of the road and unopened buds lay in wait on the branches of passing trees. Ten fingers curling around the handlebars, taking the bike into a curve, wind tickling the short hairs on my neck, I take a deep breathe of air and smell the dirt. The breath is a concoction of dirt and grass and crisp air and newness. I’ve always loved motorcycle spring. The bike straightens close to the center line and the upturned mouth is irrepressible. I am Cheshire cat on a bike.
“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
Winter is dead.” ~A.A. Milne~
I am not blonde, but I am 52. Winter is dead and so is the marriage. It is the end of April, in the midst of spring. I am a bit sad, a bit stressed, a bit anxious. My girlfriend, Natasha, tells me it’s time to celebrate freedom and a new chapter of life, so we go to the Italian restaurant and sit at the end of the bar. We eat, we drink, we laugh. We eat more, we drink more, we laugh more. Natasha tells the waitress it’s my birthday and a chocolate cupcake with a candle arrives five minutes later. We toast with the cupcake and drink. More laughter. Three hours later, we are both stuffed and I have had divorce day therapy with the best friend a person could ever have. Winter has died, and this spring is all about life.
“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome.” ~Anne Bradstreet~
I am back to being 56 and praying it’s the end of adversity – one of the coldest and snowiest winters on record in Wisconsin – and the beginning of pleasantries and prosperity. It’s the weekend and I take mom out to lunch for the first time in three months. The warmth of a sun in the upper 20’s returns mom to her youth. She is home, with her mom and dad and 12 siblings. Her dad is teaching his wife the trick-taking card game of sheepshead. The dad takes a trick from his wife and she yells in her German accent, “You took my ass!” (she meant ace)
The 13 kids squeal, “Mommmm!” My mother laughs and grins.
Back home, the 56 year old dons a pair of walking shoes and high tails it through the subdivision before the sun goes down. Sunday is daylight savings, so this will be the last day for awhile that I will be leading my long shadow down the street at 4:30. I don’t smell dirt, but the snow is on a slow melt. I avoid the puddles that I felt like jumping into as a five year old and steer clear of patches that remain icy. I am a somewhat careful 56 in those instances, yet my gait on dry road is somewhere around 25. I feel the promise of spring on my face and it gives energy to keep going and pass up the Girl Scout trying to sell cookies from her wagon. I pick up the pace to the sounds of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch’s “Good Vibrations.”
“When spring came, even the false spring, there were no problems except where to be happiest.” ~Ernest Hemingway~
The age of a new season is called spring. It’s where I have been happiest…at 5, jumping in the puddles; at 38, smelling dirt on the bike; or at 56, hearing my mom say “ass” and laughing as if SHE were the five year old.
The Golden Years means something different to everyone. Check out what other people are writing about it.