One of the ways we track where we are in our own travels through the life course is by noting where our close ones are in their travels through the life course. The occasion of celebrating the birthday of a dear, close other — whatever species they happen to be a member of – offers one a moment of pause, an opportunity to reflect upon how it is that our precious lives are so tangled up together.
I just slid into the oven a sheet of coconut macaroons flecked with bittersweet chocolate. Macaroons – the down-to-earth flaked coconut haystack kind, not the fancy French bonbon kind (which are equally delicious!) – are my mother’s favorite cookie. I gave her a big mason jar full of them (a total of 12) as one of her Christmas presents. Purportedly, she allows herself to eat one a day, so by my calculations, if she began consuming them on December 25, 2015, she ran out of her macaroon supply around January 5, 2016 (give or take a day or two on either side of January 5th, in case she ate more than one macaroon on a particular day or, perhaps, skipped a day). So, time for me to replenish her supply!
Today is my mother’s 70th birthday. The macaroons are one of the gifts I am giving her.
During our texting conversation this morning, when I wished her a happy birthday, she asked, “Am I really 70?!?! How did that happen?” My response: “Age is strange.”
Age (and aging) is strange.
Where does “70” reside?
Certainly after having lived on this planet, with its gravity and other peculiar forces, for several decades, one’s body shows and feels the impact. But what does “70” look like? My mom is “70,” my mentor and comrade Rick Moody is “70”…they look like themselves, they look to me as they’ve always looked, though I will admit that they look like themselves in a more…how shall I say it…definite, singular and true way.
Where does “70” reside?
The accumulation of birthdays is probably the least interesting definition of one’s “age.” What would happen if we defined aging as the process of becoming more complex through a life deeply lived? Where would our age reside within such a definition? Rather than our age, perhaps we’d talk about our lived experiences (especially the messy ones), and what we’ve learned about ourselves and others through ongoing thinking and reflecting (alone and together), and by being willing over and over to try to have delicate, brave conversations.
What if, in addition to noting our own and others’ chronological ages, we marked our travels through the life course by celebrating how long it is that we’ve been riding together on a bright red arrow that’s flying though space and time?
What if we toasted to the shared mystery of embodying a particular age, all ages and no age, all at once?
Perhaps the best question we could ask, on the occasion of a birthday, would be: How long has it been that we’ve been loving each other?
Mommy, Susan Hotz, how long has it been that we’ve been loving each other?
Happiest of birthdays (enjoy the macaroons)!