Age is an interesting thing. This number that adds up how many calendar years we’ve been out of the womb.
That number is a reminder of how much has come before the now and how much or how little is yet to come. In childhood it is measured against charts for growth and developmental milestones. Developmental ages are given. In adulthood, though less numeric and specific, it is measured too – how much we’ve accomplished of our goals, led a meaningful and purposeful life and/or achieved what various people, depending on their journey, might have expected we have.
Just before turning 7, my daughter determinedly wanted to stay 6 and stop growing up so fast. She wanted me to always be able to lift her up and swing her around. She wanted to always be able to snuggle amongst her stuffed animals and dolls . These days, she proudly proclaims AND A HALF at the end of 7 each time she is asked how old she is, because it makes her that much closer to 8. I can still lift her. She still snuggles with her stuffed animals and dolls.
At 10, Ephraim carries the first double digit age and its comparisons. He owns his moments of personal achievement with a smile of pride. Walking side by side I feel is hand reach for mine and then, in a moment, he gently pulls it away. Yes, 10 means change.
But 39 and four and a half months, what of it? It is certainly more than the compilation on my résumé or any social media site. It is more than what I’ve written or is captured in pictures. It is more than what I have earned or spent or own…or lost. I can close my eyes and see vivid replays of some of my highest and lowest times. I can also see those moments in who I am now. I wonder sometimes how to just BE. And it’s something I sigh deeply about.
We visited the zoo and my sometimes sensory reluctant son said he did not want to feed the goats. That was okay I told, him but he “had done it before and was really happy afterwards.” He sat on the bench and watched. I got some food and told him I was going to do it with his sister, and he could watch, or try one piece. I found his hand slowly sliding under mine to catch the food. And he fed the goat. With goat saliva on his hand, people bustling about, his sister still leaning down feeding one, the heavy, hot air, he smiled with a tender joy and said, “I did it. You told me I would be proud and happy. I am.”
There are no charts that mark when one should be able to feed a goat or do something that they are a little afraid or concerned about. I don’t need one to measure the look of pure joy on Ephraim’s face.
I watch him later as he speeds through the campground on his three wheel bike, now able to enjoy the freedom of biking. This same day he reminds me I am in love with God when he overhears something I say to my mom about too many love songs playing everywhere we go. That insight and compassion outranks so much of what he has struggled with.
He and I will keep helping one another through life, one piece of goat food at a time.
His sister creative, confused, and sometimes timid, sometimes tenacious, jumps right in to feed the goats. The moment won’t last forever, though. And change is hard for KIra. When we leave the zoo, she says what a wonderful day it was, a look of longing forming, and then she apologizes for complaining earlier in the day. She is measuring the day up and thinking of what she could have done differently, but now can’t. She is mourning the ending before we’ve even reached the exit. I get it.
Once she is in her bathing suit and sifting through sand for each magnificent and unique pebble she finds, that struggle fades. She is immersed wholly in the moment. This is something that she does so well. I watch her carefully look through the sand, feel the water run through her fingers, and study each rock with fascination before she runs out of the lake to deliver it to me with pride, describing the color and the smoothness of its water worn shape. It is added to the collection for us to admire. It will keep the moment for us, as I do with pictures and writing.
There is such complete enthusiasm in her whole being right then that I wish I could return that to her when the frustrations of life overwhelm her. When making a decision renders her in tears or the desire for perfection pulls at her, I wish I could bring her heart back to the place where sand drips through her fingers and that is all that matters. Standing above me on the beach, she leans down and kisses my head, smiles at me and tells me I am beautiful. And so I am.
While these moments will define memories of their ages right now, they will also very much be a part of the adults they will become, some day turning *gulp* 39.
They hug me with sweet abandon, not caring too much about where I am in life other than being their mom.
Will 40 be much different for me? I will still be in love with God and beautiful, no matter what unfolds around me.
I went to the lake alone, in the duskiness of the day. The kids settling into their bunks in Nana’s and Papa’s camper. For air. For beauty. My journal stayed beside me in the sand. I thought of the goats I’ve fed and the sand and water I’ve let trickle through my fingers.
I laid back against the beach and listened to the sound of water gently lapping at the edge, the distant laughter of campsites, the ducks feeding, soft music of hope in my ear, and the pounding of my heart. The sand slid through my hair, and brushed down inside my shirt, on my day worn body. Unkempt hair, no make-up, damp clothing. The faintness of a fading day and fatigue. Of my own sometimes fading self.
I have done well for my life. I have worked hard, loved hard and tripped hard. I have embraced goals. I have faced some painful experiences and realizations. I can count my many blessings of success and purpose.
39 feels neither whole or incomplete. It is just an age. But me? I am learning daily how to be in the now as much as I can. I have always been drawn to nature, to stop to appreciate it and consider its perfect magnitude. There’s nothing to make sense of. I need to do that with myself.
They are currently doing a beach restoration project at the ocean beach near the campground. Huge pipes stretch down the beach and machines work to pump sand further down the shore line. When we crossed the dunes to see it, I was both saddened by the broken view and appreciative that the beach is being saved for my children to see at 39, as I saw it at their age.
With the backdrop of the ocean, waves and seagulls, the hum of sand can be heard being pushed through the pipe to a place where it blasts out of the end of the pipe filling in the beach. Intriguing contraptions and construction equipment mimic something similar we might have set up with sand toys. The beach looks strange as it is repaired.
That’s what we must do with ourselves sometimes. We must look beyond what makes up what we’ve been for so many years, to the chances we have to restore ourselves, as strange as the process may be. Nothing needs to be discarded, just repurposed to fit with our… developmental age.