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How I got here—pushing fifty-years-old with my foot still jammed on the accelerator—without preserving the time to learn and do all of the things on my wish list, still leaves me baffled.
It’s like the lyrics to the John Lennon song: “Life is what happens when you are busy doing other things.”
Aside from a distant, almost ancestral past life memory of learning about photosynthesis in elementary school science class, I realize that I know next to nothing about vegetation—despite being a vegetarian and consuming photosynthetic green lifeblood every day of my life.
I don’t know how to tap a watermelon to know if it’s good inside, how to plant a humble tomato, nor the secret to baking a simple loaf of bread. But these are all things wise, aging women should know and be able to share with younger generations, aren’t they?
All I do know is that one day I woke up and my face had caved in and I looked like Walter Matthau’s twin sister Gertrude Matuschanskayasky. My body is shriveling into an old lady suit, right before my eyes, like an animated rendition from Pixar.
But inside, I think I’m still thirty or maybe even thirty-five, wondering where the next adventure is coming from.
Will people be able to tap me and know if I’m good inside—if there’s young, bright and aspiring flesh beneath this aging rind?
Strange thing about Walter Matthau. He had the ability to communicate—no emanate—the forces of love and compassion through the eyes of a lined and sagging visage that became his trademark. Mother Teresa, she had it too.
Why is tender wisdom so often housed in an ugly countenance?
It’s a reminder that this dying human coil is an imperfect wick for an eternal flame—our infinitely youthful souls.
There are the dark and quiet nights when Frank and the children are asleep that I walk through the house, doing my “final rounds”—turning out lights, closing windows, checking doors and, most important of all, one last look at my ‘babies’ as they sleep in their beds.
Have their covers been thrown off? Are their feet sticking over the edge as a prelude to falling out? Is the bedside lamp still on, causing their faces to frown in sleep?
And then I gaze at them. My children. How fortunate I am.
Alex with his budding Roman nose, sparkling hazel eyes, his grand, generous smile and ruddy dimpled cheeks. Lizzie with her bouncing blond curls, cupid bow lips, and perfect peaches and cream skin.
They are beautiful, my children. So precious and innocent.
I peer at them in the beneath the mottled moth wing of the night light : “Oh, what a wonderful life you have before you. I wish I could be you! Just for a moment!”
And then: “Just don’t spend it all in one place!”
Whatever I know, whatever I may have learned along the way—my meager treasures gathered and hoarded in my memories—is all theirs.
If they’ll listen.
I don’t think it ever occurred to us when we were young that those seemingly silly old people with admonishing forefingers and apparent prophecies of doom were just like us. Just like us, except for the Walter Matthau suits and having had a few more “tours of duty” under their belts.
I now feel the irony, the sadness, of knowing that—even if I am of the most fortunate few—only a fraction of the distillation of my learned wisdom will be absorbed by my children. Only a fleeting hint listened to.
Like all youths, as a rite of passage, they are going to go hell-bent into their own experiences thinking that we are foolish, over-cautious and out-of-date.
“Oh Mom and Dad, times have changed!” the young folk say. There are no more pedophiles, murderers or rapists. They are, after all, feeling immortal
I can still remember feeling invincible. A young person’s sense of immortality can be a potent asset and a terrible weakness.
Perhaps, for mothers, the ramifications for this are far more profound—how we perceive our mortality directs the way we prepare our children for life.
Had I had my children in my twenties or thirties, the dawn of this realization would still be well beneath the horizon. But this is an eclipse—full-on knowledge with sun and moon residing in the same sky.
It’s the nexus where youth and immortality meet age and death.
But my wise little people will often cure me of my overweening focus on pathetic fallacy. In innocence, knowledge must be more perfect because it has not been eroded by the doubts of experience.
“Are you my big strong son, Alex?” I recently asked my 7-year-old as he carried some shopping bags from the car for me.
Lizzie—still only 4 and mistaking the filial reference for a celestial one—ran towards me.
“And Mommy” she says, confidently clasping my hand, “I am your little moon!”
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