I refuse to refer to myself as “old”. That word is reserved for expired food, pants with split seams, frayed sweatshirts and out of date shoes. None of those words describe me. I’m mature, seasoned, worldly. Although, I do feel a little split apart at the seams sometimes. And occasionally my frayed hair isn’t just a morning attraction but I can assure you that my shoes are never out of date.
Last week I hosted Thanksgiving. My parents ascended Saturday. We spent a few days finishing meal planning and grocery shopping. On Wednesday one of my brothers and two of my cousins joined us for the rest of the week. I’ve always felt like either “the youngster” around family or at least “one of the guys”. Age has been irrelevant, just a number. But somewhere between last Saturday and Thanksgiving, I got “old”. I became the woman with the kids and the house. The one who did laundry and made sure everyone had enough to eat. I set out slippers, towels and blankets for everyone’s comfort while watching the “youngsters” giggle and joke about school, parties and boys. I heard myself give advice about professors and campus safety, and worried about everyone’s travels home. I put myself to bed at a “decent” hour, not because I had to get up early the next day, but simply because I was dragging ass.
This past Friday we all spent some time on the University of Michigan‘s campus. I marveled at all of the beautiful architecture and wondered at the history of each building, daydreaming about past lives that had crossed these sidewalks. I tried to picture what it would have been like being a student in these classrooms, while listening to my young cousins reference their current school experiences. I had a very different college environment. It was a commuter college, the University of Texas at San Antonio. A good education, but not the same as a school the size of U of M or of even a smaller residential university. For a moment, a tinge of jealousy and longing filled me while we walked back to our parked car.
But as I unlocked the car, and helped my youngest daughter into her seat, my heart trembled at the smell of her winter breath. I looked over at her sister next to her and smiled. The realization that my generation has aged, that I am now in the adult circle, was more than a feeling. It was a tangible fact. But surprisingly a comforting realization. I can hug and kiss on these extensions of myself, the fruits of my years of labor. I don’t have to muddle through finding my first job, my first love and my first real heartbreak, I’m not still waiting for my first house or relying on others to pay my bills. I don’t worry about writing ridiculously long papers about things that I am not interested in or deal with packing up my belongings every holiday or even each year. I don’t share a bathroom with a floor of girls (well, maybe a couple sometimes). I still get to giggle about boys with my daughters, share a special date night with my husband and party in my pajamas over a glass of wine with a girlfriend. The talk of graduate school has been on the table, but now I get to choose the things I really want to study.
I enjoyed being reminded of the simplicity of my youth, sharing a few stories about great parties and frustrating teachers. And even though I am in continual awe over their energy (so cliché, but true), their world views and their passion, I am also glad that I get to set an example of their futures. Hopefully it is a good example – a life that they picture for themselves. One day.
Although sometimes, it is nice to get carded when ordering a beer.