|I stared at the chocolate cake, not sure whether to exhale or cry. Four decades couldn't have flown by so fast. It simply wasn't possible. Didn't I graduate from high school just last June? But there on my birthday cake flickered the undeniable evidence: 40 pink candles dripping into Ghiardelli puddles. Every candle shouted a unanimous chorus of: "Welcome to Middle Age!" |
"Am I officially `over the hill" now?" I later grumped to Jean, my best friend. She celebrated my entre" into "Middle Age" in dry–humored fashion with a bouquet of black roses. And enough chocolate to sink the Bismarck. My four boys pooled their resources to buy 40 mylar balloons. They meant well. It was the sight of 40 "Over the Hill" balloons crammed into my living room that got me thinking: "Is it really all downhill from here?"
Perched up here in the Nose Bleed section, my view from "The Hill" is really pretty good. Considering the alternative, that is. And what part of The Hill I'm tackling: bottom, top, or far side. Now I have to choose how to navigate the knoll—on hands and knees, sliding face–first, or traveling light. So I've made a decision. Before fielding any more snide remarks about "candles costing more than the cake," I've decided to think of "40–something" like this: "Compared to a Bristlecone Pinetree, I'm just a wet–behind–the–ears whipper–snapper!"
It works pretty well. Except when taking my new attitude out for a "test drive" with my 10 year–old. He knows everything. Especially how ancient and archaic I am!
I didn't mind so much until the other day when he pipes up with, "Hey mom, did they have cars when you were a little girl?"
Just how old does that kid think I AM?!
Not quite old enough to have reached full–blown senility I guess. I immediately shot back, "Yes we did. We also had to watch out for dinosaurs."
I felt pretty smug about that witticism. For about a day. Then he asks, "Mom, what's a record album? How did you listen to anything without a CD player?"
I didn't even TRY explaining eight–tracks, black–and–white TV or carbon paper. He's still trying to figure out how anyone changed channels without a remote or made dinner without a microwave.
I've also noticed that lopping five years off my age–o–meter works about as well as recalibrating the bathroom scale to disguise "Middle Age Spread." I've decided those extra 15 pounds are as permanent as they are pesky. So are the cumulative effects of gravity. Some days I'm convinced that even my freckles are drooping.
Then there's the bathroom mirror. Someone keeps chiseling lines all over my face every time I look at it. Well, that mirror was never much of a friend anyway. These days I just ignore it. Ditto the bottle of L"Oreal. I just stash it behind my "industrial strength" overnight cream. And my eye glasses? Hey, I don't really NEED those specs. Only when I want to see.
Speaking of physical effects from The Hill, I'm still trying to figure out why my tennis racquet meets every service return and ground stroke in "super slo–mo." I also suspect those tennis balls bounce faster and farther with each passing year. At least, that's what my feet say. Er... holler. Same thing with power walking and jogging. The latter is an activity I'm quickly relegating to the "used to" bin. After 30 minutes of pounding the pavement these days, I discover joints and muscles I didn't even know I had. Especially the next morning. Seems some parts of the ‘ole bod can't be bothered to put in an appearance before I accrue a sufficient number of candles on the cake!
While I can't honestly reduce my candle quantity, I've learned something else since hitting "the big 4–0": When the years pile up they equal Aging. We groan about it, poke fun at it, try to hide it. But we can't stop it. There's no sense trying to push it back, so I've decided to approach the Hill light–heartedly and with gusto.
You see, I can't quite say "35" anymore without a severe conscience pang. Well O.K, I can't say "39" without a twinge. At least I'm in the ballpark when I say "41"! Whether I'm giggling or guffawing up The Hill, I'm reminded with every step that candle costs could be a lot worse.
I've also learned something else about Middle Age. The Hill offers a view of the horizon not always available to wet behind the ear whipper–snappers. Specifically, my perch in the Nose Bleed section helps me see that the same One who guided my footsteps Yesterday and orders them Today is blazing a trail for my Tomorrow. He's planting sign posts along the way. They"re called "birthdays." Each candle reminds me that every new laugh line, gray hair or drooping freckle means I'm another day closer to Home.
As for my Jean, next year it'll be HER turn for the black balloons. I wonder if I can manage 45 of them without snickering myself silly?