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.