“Adults are obsolete children.”

16 Sep

I turned around and summer had stood up, dusted itself off, and wandered into a closet somewhere near Tasmania. I could have sworn that I was just complaining about never ending heat and humidity, sweat dripping off the tip of my nose. Lo-it’s fall suddenly, leaves holding their aching backs and turning gemlike, me needing my hoodie for the walk home.

This progression, so subtle and sudden, also reminds me I’m another year older soon. It’s a nasty gift, having a birthday at the season change. It’s a reminder, a bitter one, that my summer comes to an end, bringing forth what we all hope will be a brilliant and comfortable fall.

Sometimes it is. Sometimes the fall days are sunny and comforting, an arm chair to relax in. Some years, the winds blow cold early and the snow finds it’s way to us before we’re ready, and we clutch at our shoulders, wondering how it happened so fast.

*****************

I’m 32 this year, and I find myself turning that number over and over on the tip of my tongue, like I might a new pea or a piece of candy coated in citric acid. It doesn’t fit this number, this thirty TWO, so close on the heels of that cursed 30 that seems so monumental so recently. Mentally I’m staring back at myself, like I’d stare at my ass, wondering how it got there and who was responsible for it. 32 you see, is much closer to 40 than I’m altogether comfortable with, much close to frank internal discussions of the mortality I’m supposedly not concerned with. 32 is this weirdly adult place I’m stumbling across, all frizzy hair and bad shoes, questionable fashion choices and irresponsible parenting.

32 just seems all too bloody real.

It’s not a matter of age, despite the shuddering queasy I hold towards 43, that myth of an age my mother made. I’m ok with growing old. I’m ok, I think, with the years flipping past me like a rolodex, merging into a nebulous “before” that combines the idiot I was at 16 with the frightening almost woman I was at 25. I’m ok, teary eyes and a bit tight in the chest, with the idea of one day lying in bed surrounded by my children, their children maybe, keening at my death. It’s part of life, part of the circle I somewhat worship and believe so fervantly in, if I can be described as believing in anything at all.

I’m good with life, and I’m good with death.

It’s the adult part I always seem to stumble on, vague memories of the friends of my mother, all dowdy in their elastic waist pants and puffy housewife hair. I remember them being the age I am now, and seeming so settled in their roles, so accepting and peaceful with it.

I don’t delude myself into thinking that perhaps at 6 or 8 I didn’t have the same insight I’d like to think I have now. But there was some indefinable something that my mother’s generation had that I don’t, and it bothers me like one of those slivers you get in the bottom of your foot, the kind that grows into the callous until worn off, not exactly painful but just very much there.

32 seems old, but not in a tired way-it’s more like I used to be the Empress begging Atreyu to save her, and now, I feel more like the Nothing, stretching myself without purpose or end. There’s something about the number itself, a numbing agent or a scare tactic, a clucking of the tongue, laughing as I drag myself out of bed each day at 10, the sad effects of working nights.

This isn’t what 32 should feel like. I should feel settled. I should feel responsible. I should feel more me.

It was a lie wasn’t it? Our parents stayed awake thinking these very thoughts, staring at the drain of their lives, or worse, they didn’t. Maybe they just lived without the constant second and 15 guessing so many of us are privy too. Maybe they were too busy living their lives to examine them, and were then happier for it.

Maybe 32, or 38 or 43 was just another fucking number in a life.

*****************

At 32, my mother would have just recently become a mother to me. I would have maybe started walking by then, babbling perhaps. I have an old, crackling portrait of me, diaper bulging bottom and winter coat, dancing in the door way of the corner store behind the house I grew up in. You can just make out my mother’s purse in the background. That was my mother at 32. That is the only way I know my mother at my age, in pieces, in the cracked shards of an old picture I’m soon to lose forever. It shows nothing of the angst of an age, of the tiredness of relatively new motherhood, of life as a housewife and mother, a full time job if there is one.

Instead, in it I smile, guileless, with love and affection and joy.

My mother I think, knew much more than she ever let on.

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9 Responses to ““Adults are obsolete children.””

  1. Marcy September 16, 2009 at 8:57 am #

    There’s more in between — it’s not either settled into frumpdom or the daring adventuress. It’s exactly where you are, now, and what you say it is. Don’t let the number tease you.

  2. bromac September 16, 2009 at 11:21 am #

    Fall, what’s fall? UGH–still in the mid-90’s down here. I miss seasons.

    I am turning 32 in the spring. I have been feeling, lately, that 40 is approaching way too quickly. Feelings of mortality, distance from the generation of my daughter, and being near halfway through my life. Halfway. It’s scary and it’s morbid.

  3. ej September 16, 2009 at 2:30 pm #

    At the ripe old age of 51 (!) I can say that it’s mot “all frizzy hair and bad shoes, questionable fashion choices and irresponsible parenting.”. It really is just another fucking number. I am still the same person I was at 15, 26 and 38. A bit wiser, but fundamentally the same.

    I think that your feeling of “But there was some indefinable something that my mother’s generation had that I don’t” is an eternal one – borne out of reflection. Our children will look at us and feel the same, as did our parents when looking at their parents.

  4. zeusiswatching September 16, 2009 at 6:37 pm #

    43 is just fine. I am doing different things at 43 than at 23, but I am having a great time (save an awful back injury, but that will get fixed somehow) doing what I do now.

    I’m not in your shoes and will not tell you what to do. I’ll suggest this much only: if you are concerned about the future — your future — that’s great. This gives you a chance to set new goals, change them, change your patterns of living (probably not drastically), and keep yourself open to new interests.

    I look forward to 53 and I look forward to seeing you there too.

  5. flutter September 17, 2009 at 1:13 am #

    I love watching you grow.

  6. Bon September 19, 2009 at 12:35 pm #

    i think it was a lie. or rather, for most it was a lie but the culture had bought in and so most lived it as best they could or understood, but in the end it was all a number in a life, like you say. and i imagine the diaper-puffy baby just learning to walk was the bleary focus, no matter whether our mothers were 23 then like mine or 32 like yours.

    i have a picture of my mother at 37, the age i am now. we are standing together at my junior high graduation, both of us greasy in the June heat and florid in our bad 80s satiny outfits and perms. i peer at her but can see nothing of my own understanding of what it means to be 37. and that, more than anything, reminds me that this number shit really must be some kind of silly joke.

  7. B September 22, 2009 at 5:54 pm #

    You’re an old hag. Ha! I kid. I just had to be the one to say that after your comments about how 30 is getting to be younger and younger since everyone is living longer.

    Can you tape the picture of you and your mother together and scan it? For some reason, the thought of you losing that picture is heart-breaking for me.

  8. Sarah September 22, 2009 at 10:31 pm #

    I think about this all the time. About age. About my perception of my parents when they were my age. Hell, about the perception I have now of people doing the same thing that I’m doing at about the same age: parenting in their 30s. They seem to have it all together. Seem to fit the role. I am always amazed. They seem to know themselves. To emanate the 30s decade. And me? I’m like WHAT? I’m 31? What? I have three kids, what?

    Sure, I’m totally comfortable in the role of mom. With three kids I have no choice. But the “responsible for other people” thing? Okay, that’s daunting.

    I feel like I identify more with my 20 year old sitter than I do with my 35 year old friends. Problem.

    So yeah, I get it. All of it. Your way and mine. Birthdays and seasons and getting older and all of it.

    • thordora September 23, 2009 at 12:20 am #

      It really does feel that way to me, and I’m glad I’m not alone. I feel like I’m just not the same adult-and frankly, my father echoes that to me sometimes. Maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe I’m deluded, but I feel like all my bullshit is just that-bullshit.

      But who knows. Maybe my mother really did go to woodstock as my father claims, and everything I’ve ever thought is dead wrong.

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