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I’ve been away for a while. Labor Day weekend visitors—combined with the usual family “crisis of the day”, as we call it—nearly wiped my existence off the blogging map.
I’m beginning to realize that later life parenting is all about serial hurdle-jumping, while trying to cram in some personal activity that vaguely re-asserts an identity you once had.
This week, it’s all about preparation for Lizzie’s 5th birthday party, and contemplating the notion that, while she emerges into new life with her 5th year, I’m sliding downhill into my 50th.
I don’t recall the morning of the day I awoke and realized that I had “passed to the other side”. But it came home to me when I engaged in today’s so-called personal activity.
I had taken a box of old books from the garage to begin dusting them off and placing them upon the book shelves in my office. Some of them had dedications written by others. Some had penciled notes in the margins from my own hand, bottled messages to myself, from another page out of time.
The Time of my life.
One was a heavy tome entitled: The Riverside Shakespeare and the dedication read: “This is still the only book worth taking anywhere, except to a desert island, because the island would sink.”
It was given to me for my twenty-fifth birthday in 1985. I was staggered to realize that was now almost a quarter of a century ago.
But I remember it as if it were yesterday. I had my first (and last) taste of ballroom dancing for that evening. And my first (and last) order of oysters (which revisited us later in the evening while I worshipped at the “throne of the porcelain god”.) Funny, how the blush of embarrassment disappears from such memories after the years have bleached them.
The person who wrote the dedication has long departed to another life, in another country, with another lady.
But for me, it was yesterday.
Until you really taste the taste of bittersweet, you know nothing of its flavor, no matter how many definitions you read.
You only know it in the brain. Not in the soul, where it’s indelible mark remains like the imprint of a pressed leaf or flower that was somehow forgotten, left behind, in the private library that documents every intimate moment of our lives.
Somewhere along this journey, I passed over to the other side of my life. It’s as if Charon had taken me in the night while I slept, on a living journey across the River Styx.
It is not Death we fear, but Old Age. And as we enter that realm, we learn that nostalgia is the nectar of the Gods that makes aging palatable—the ‘spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down’.
But here and now, it seems to congeal in my throat into a hard lump. A lump I cannot swallow.
Soon, my Lizzie will be five. I feel the heaviness of her when I pick her up, knowing the time will come very soon when I can no longer swing her through the air like a rag doll until she pleads with me to stop, breathless from helpless giggling.
I gaze at her across the great divide, the River Styx of time, for Youth has left me like a lover in the night, now that dawn has broken.
Now, I find it almost inconceivable to comprehend the riches of life and experience that await my children.
A veritable Aladdin’s Cave (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Aladdin).
They and I are as far apart as night and day, because it is Time that parts us.
But as I look into the trusting hazel eyes in Lizzie’s apple-cheeked face, I realize that even Time cannot take my love from me.
Suddenly, I reach out and grasp her, swinging her high, until she begins to laugh. For the next hour we frolic and roll like mother cat with her kitten on the family room rug, as I steal a moment that even this great thief may never take from us, no matter how inevitable his reign.
And now, as she lies napping in her bed, I am reminded of another book, that bubbles up in my memories like a time in a bottle.
The Outsiders, by S. E Hinton (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/The_Outsiders_%28novel%29)— a story published in 1967 the about the rite of passage for struggling youth in a world that ceases to dream of higher purpose.
During the long, lingering days of summer in a small town on the East Coast, when I was about 8 or 9 years old, my older sister would read it aloud to me as we curled up on the sofa.
And in it, where the famous poem of Robert Frost was canonized, I experienced the emotional juxtaposition of nostalgia within a budding mind—a reaching for something so magical that it always remained just beyond touch.
Until today. Now I am Midas (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Midas). The magical thing is in my grasp because the journey of aging has brought me to it. It is called Innocence and to be real—to be truly alive—it must, by definition, remain unknowable.
The gold I have touched, has somehow spirited the spark of my dreams away. In my mind’s eye, I see the Paradise I have lost. And in my mouth, lies the taste of ashes.
Nothing Gold Can Stay
By Robert Frost
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
Notes for this blog:
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