It has been a hard week. It should have been a good week. The eBay auction was a success, meaning I have over $360 to give to the Pennies for Poop fund to be matched by the donor. Jasper has been on retreat with school, so I had a couple of nights where I could live on my schedule and not his. I decided to finally sit down and watch some old home movies, figuring I could laugh and cry without distraction. I did laugh, but the crying was hard.
Watching the kids when they were young is funny. Really, they have not changed all that much. Sure, Emerald is no longer a scrawny little beanpole, and Jasper finally grew into his eyelashes. Their bodies have grown, but the young adults they have become are very much in evidence in the old movies. And, I think any parent will tell you that no matter how old the kids get, you see them as your babies. What made me cry was not seeing Jim in his youth…it was seeing the youth I was, reflected in his eyes. Jim and I met in our 20’s. That was when my hair was long, wavy and dark, not kinky and graying. Freckles across my nose rather than the remnants of the mask of pregnancy. No railroad tracks of stretch marks from carrying 2 babies to term, eyes not rimmed in laugh lines and forehead frowns. Young smooth hands, and feet not calloused from 30 years of running. As life progressed through the years, our bodies aged. But we still saw each other as the youths we were when we fell in love. No matter how fat I got when I was pregnant, even with all the worry and lack of sleep of raising children, Jim still saw the 26-year-old inside. I could see it in the movies, in his comments, in his behavior, in his eyes.
Because I was not living on Jasper’s schedule this week, I decided to go to a birthday party on a work night. I love birthdays. This party was multi-generational, folks my age, and kids closer to my daughter’s age than mine. As the dancing started up, there was some age guessing….and a 28-year-old in the room guessed my age as 57. Gulp, and this in the same month that my mother told me that my long hair makes me look older. I brushed it off, but it made me think. I’m little, people usually guess down on my age. I got carded at the grocery store until the year I got pregnant with Emerald at age 30. It’s been a hard year, I am tired and rarely sleep well. But I don’t feel old.
I think that though our bodies age, we remain young inside. It explains our society’s obsession with youthful appearance…hair dye, body work, hours of gym sculpting. We want our outers to match our innards. We seek people and activities that bring back the youth we were. Older men often end up marrying someone half their age and starting a new family. It’s fun to dance with the college boys on a Friday night. We hook up with someone who we knew in high school because they see the youth we were. Part of the reason that I love to swim is that the minute I hit the pool, I am instantly the 10-year-old girl who went to 3 diving practices a day, and the teenager that loved to skinny dip in the WI lakes on a full moon night. I’m pretty sure that every time Jim jumped on his bike, he was also riding around his Portland neighborhood delivering papers in the pre-dawn dark. Just put on the music of your teenaged years, and watch a group of your peers on the dance floor. Our youth is still inside there, peering out through eyes with dark circles, causing bodies to sway with memories of “back then”.
When you stay connected with someone over many years, they are your fountain of youth. Jim was mine, and I was his. No matter how old and worn we might have looked on the outside, I was that 20 something girl in his eyes, we were newlyweds in each others arms, and he was still the nordic god in my Tahoe foyer every time we danced.
I have never lied about my age. I am 51. I will never color or perm my hair, and I think body work is a waste of money. I am not interested in a boy 1/2 my age, and at this point, I am just glad that all of my body parts still work well enough to let me run, and swim, and dance. It is not my long hair that makes me look older, and it isn’t even the cumulative 1.5 years of stress. Jim is dead. He took my youth with him. But, I am still inside here….just put on some 80’s music…..or give me a warm summer night on the river.