I Plan to Age and Tell

Posted: May 14th, 2011 | Author: | Filed under: Birthdays, Manners, Milestones, Misc Neuroses, Mom, Other Mothers, Paigey Waigey Wiggle Pop | 3 Comments »

When my mom was little she was poor as dirt.

She was never one to wax nostalgic, but she did tell me a few stories about those days. Just snippets really. And they underscored the fact that—during The Depression when her dad ditched his wife and their eight (yes, EIGHT) children—she and her sibs didn’t exactly pass the time playing with Barbie Dream Houses, or spiffing up their new Huffy bikes with handle-bar streamers.

No, theirs was much more of a kick-the-can existence.

I got the impression there was also a lot of hanging out on their front porch. (See? It’s in my genes.) It was a roost from which they could survey the ‘hood. And wait for something exciting to happen.

Mom was the seventh child, but had one younger brother, my Uncle Eddy. The two of them had a little routine they’d put on for passers-by.

“What time is it?” Mom would ask with dramatic flourish.

And looking at his bare wrist Eddy would reply, “Why, it’s—one hundred o’clock!”

Yeah, okay. So it’s not much of a story, right?

To be honest, I’m not too clear on why she found that so uproarious. Maybe ’cause it showed how kids trying to act cool and grown-up invariably blow their own covers? Perhaps she wanted to console me that I wasn’t the last child on earth to learn to tell time? (Though I think I was close.)

Whatever the case, Paige has been playing her own numbers game recently. But she’s hardly grand enough to get even close to the realm of 100. These days for Paigey everything is about five.

Five is Paige’s exaggeration number. According to a theory of my friend Ruby’s, everyone has an exaggeration number. It’s the number they fall back on when they’re awash in hyperbole. If I remember correctly, Ruby’s was 52 for a while. Which meant it wouldn’t be uncommon for her to say something like, “It took me forever to get out of the grocery store. There were, like, 52 people in line in front of me.”

I mean, I think her number was 52. Ruby’s Exaggeration Number Phase was back when she lived in Sausalito, which was about a million years ago.

So Paige and five. If someone asks her how old she is, she’ll sometimes smirk and say, “Five.” Her big sister is five, therefore five is the baddest-ass coolest big girl age you could ever want to be.  (Though I must say, Paige’s delivery is never terribly convincing. She’ll have some trouble passing off a fake I.D. some day—which I’m thrilled about.)

I often ask the girls, “Did I tell you how much I love you yet today?” And with Kate this triggers a response like, “Yes, and I love you 50 Redwood trees, 100 houses, and a million firetrucks high!”

Paigey says, “I love you five.”

Which just slays me with a tidal wave of mama love.

When I was talking to Paige’s preschool teacher recently I mentioned how she has this five thing. He’s one of those child development gurus who always has a nugget of wisdom to share, even when he’s handing you a plastic bag full of urine-drenched clothing. And he said that for kids Paige’s age—which, for the record, is three—five is the largest number that they can grock. They can say bigger numbers and even count, but I guess their brains can’t wrangle with anything that’s more than five.

Who knew?

My brain has similar challenges accepting the greatness of some numbers. Specifically 44. Which happens to be the age that I turned on Tuesday.

44! How the hell did that happen? In my mind my age seems to default somewhere around 32. But somehow a dozen years got slapped onto my brain’s grasp of my age without me even noticing. Scary.

When I was little I never understood why asking grown-ups their age—especially women—was so verboten. At the grocery store shopping for my birthday party once my mother bumped into a friend. The woman leaned over and asked how old I was turning. After telling her I said, “And how old are you?” At which point my mama nearly fainted into the nectarine display.

Not asking women their age was a lesson that was beaten into me as a child. And every time I was reminded of this particular point of etiquette I resolved to not become one of those women myself. Clearly they felt some shame about their age, which mystified me.

Who really cares how old you are anyway? I mean, I only asked Mrs. Froncillo that day in the grocery store to be polite. You know, since she’d asked me.

The fact is, I do feel a bit weird about how old I am now. In the Bay Area I’m hardly the only 40-something with young kids. But I’m also not the spring chicken of the PTA. Many of my friends are younger then me. Hell, I’ve even got four years on my husband.

But that’s only part of what galls me about this 44 thing. I just feel so much younger than 44 implies. It seems out-of-whack and unfair to have to have that big number as my reality.

Despite all that, there’s some part of me that feels a strong pull to do right by my childhood self. I vowed in a grocery store produce aisle that I’d never be one of those vain, self-obsessed grown-ups who feels the need to hide her age. So this is my year to push aside any glimmers of my own anxiety.

I’m gonna take back my age.

I don’t plan to declare it when I meet you for the first time. I’m not getting a tattoo of two intertwined fours by my ankle. But if it comes up in conversation, I’m not shying away from saying, “I am 44 years old, thankyouverymuch.”

I’ve actually had a few chances to test this out over the past few days, and have gotten delightful reactions like, “No WAY. You look awesome!” And, “Rock on, sister.” And even a “You’re 44 years young,” which kind of indicates to me that I really AM old. But I know they were trying to be kind.

But whatEV. If I keep this up I’m hoping the mini-stomachache that precedes the announcement of my age will eventually go away. I’m hoping that I’ll train myself into coming around to the fact that 44 really is okay.

My friend’s father turned 75 recently. And the report from the birthday bash they threw him was that at some point in the evening he dropped to the floor and did 75 push ups. To the wild applause of his guests, of course.

How rad is that? Way to show you’ve still got it.

So here’s my plan. Every time I feel the sensation of Age Shame coming on, I’m going to get on the floor and do a bunch of push-ups. If I keep it up I’ll be able to wow the attendees at my 75th party some day.

Hey, I’ll be an old woman with a grossly over-developed upper body. I’ve got that to look forward to.

In the meantime, I can rest assured knowing that however old I am, in Paige’s eyes right now I’m only five.


3 Comments on “I Plan to Age and Tell”

  1. 1 Nancy said at 10:16 am on May 14th, 2011:

    First of all Happy Birthday you 44 year old from a 53 year old. You are still young to me!! (Geez Louise, am I really closing in on 54?????)

    Just had to tell you that I read the first half of the blog to my dad who REMEMBERS playing that game on the porch with your mom. He laughed out loud and said, “Yeah, that Vicki loved to play that one.”

    Then he told me how the two of them would take apart an old clock to play with the parts. Oddly symbolic about the old clocks…

  2. 2 kristen said at 1:23 pm on May 14th, 2011:

    Too funny! I was thinking that story may get back to him… Happy he corroborated!

  3. 3 Mary said at 12:22 pm on May 16th, 2011:

    Omg! I thought you turned 42 -and this is coming from someone who really should know. And yes- I would put you in the early thirties crowd and on some extra fun nights, the late twenties. Age is weird.

    Oh- and love the line about the grossly over-developed upper body. Lol…

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