Sunday, June 10, 2012

Now We Are Six

Your birthday is coming up. I imagine that if I said that to you in person you would roll your eyes and say "don't remind me!" but I think that the fact that you have gone--how many years? More than me, anyway--without dying is a thing to be celebrated.
I remember, a few years ago, when I asked your age you sighed and said "too old," before actually telling me. Too old for what? I did not ask. I simply assumed that you meant older than you wanted to be, older than you thought people around you wanted someone like you to be, or even older than you think of yourself as being. Sometimes I'm surprised I'm not twenty anymore, even though I've had nearly fifteen years to get used to the idea, and I imagine that doesn't stop, that the passing years just make it harder and harder to wrap your mind around your real age. Like, sometimes your age does feel about right, not just accurate but right, and you think well, thank God I'm not the immature idiot I was even ten years ago!

And then you wake up the next morning and look in the mirror and think who is that old guy?

It's like that A. A. Milne poem that begins When I was one, I had just begun, and continues all the way up to When I was five, I was barely alive, before delivering the clincher; But now I am six and as clever as clever, and I think I'll stay six for ever and ever. None of us can ever really accept having been all the ages we used to be, because to some extent we were different people then. But none of us can ever really accept that we are about to become the people we haven't been yet, either. We think--wait, I'm not supposed to get old. Wasn't I going to stay six?

I don't think I will mind much getting old. I'm starting to look at middle age now, and doing it with a brave equanimity; I have my grey hairs, and I almost don't mind them. Maybe my attitude will change as I get more grey hairs and other symptoms, but maybe not. But I, too, have been "too old."

I never wanted to grow up. I fought really hard inside myself to not grow up--and no wonder, if you really think about all the awful things many grown-ups say about adulthood where children can hear them. But I turned eighteen anyway. What a strange birthday that was. I'd already decided to go ahead and grow up at that point (and yes, it's a choice; leaving childhood is a requirement, but adulthood is optional and must be deliberate), but wasn't I going to stay six? Becoming a legal adult was a good deal more disorienting to me than a few grey hairs are. Maybe it's because I've been "too old," and then come to like adulthood that I suspect I will like being old, when I get there. I've learned that reluctance to cross a milestone is no measure of what lies waiting on the other side.

I know that your birthday will find you either working, ensconced with family, or misanthropically avoiding the whole human race. I have therefore not bothered to plan any sort of party for you, and if anybody else is planning to throw you a party, they have not invited me. But I imagine that if I did invite you to a party and then told you that party was actually for you, you would grumble that you would definitely not be able to come in that case. After all, humans show up at parties. Your own species is the only one, not counting mosquitoes and flies, that you don't actually seem to like.

But I know it's only in the aggregate that you don't like us; individually, you can forgive us our species and become fond. So I can also imagine that if I did invite you to a party, and told you it was for you, you would probably smile shyly and say "no, I like parties. That would be very nice." I am somewhere between knowing you very well and knowing you not at all.

Last week, as you may have surmised, I was in something of a bad place, sad and frustrated. Everything I was sad and frustrated about is still true, and will likely sadden and frustrate me again, but at the moment I am not in the mood. I'm not in a mood for sadness! 

This week I am pleased by the success of my Ice Cream Socials, by the presence of my Chris here beside me, and by dozens of other wonderful things, including your existence, whether or not I can attend a party with you for it. I will formally wish you happy birthday nearer to your birthday, of course, but I'm glad you've stuck around for all these years. You have done and continue to do good and noble work, you are an interesting and kind human being.

I am proud and grateful to call you my friend.

best, C.


  1. Sorry you were in a dark place previously, glad you are again in the mood for something other than sadness, sorry the contributors to your sadness and frustration remain.