Here’s one for the decade in between.
This is 49.
49 is watching my oldest graduate from college. 49 is not understanding, at first, why he seems distant when we visit him that graduation weekend in New York. Not understanding, at first, how terrifying it must be to leave the safety of college for a freelancer’s life in filmmaking. Not understanding because, at 49, it was so long ago that I graduated from college myself. Yet not so long ago that he was my gruff-voiced boy who could build any Lego model he set his sights on. I’ve always believed in him. Why should now be any different?
49 is watching my daughter graduate from high school a week later. 49 is remembering that long ago summer, at the end of senior year, when a circle of friends had finally come together and become like air to me, filling me up. The Police’s Synchronicity had just come out, and we hung out at each other’s houses, listening and in love with each other, in that charged space between high school and college. 49 is understanding that our girl’s friends will fill up her days this summer, will fill up her heart, until summer ends and we fly her to college in New York. 49 is knowing that heart-imploding moment of leaving her there with her one-way ticket (because we’ve been through it before) and deciding not to think about it for now.
49 is having a birthday in the midst of the graduations and thinking, At least I didn’t turn 50 on top of it all.
49 is seeing photos of myself ten years ago and thinking I looked gorgeous–even though I’m sure I disliked them then. 49 is being wrinkled and wracked because I grew up with fair skin in the 70s and 80s, a time when we slathered ourselves in baby oil instead of sunscreen, and then we laid out. 49 is catching my reflection in a car window, or the selfie-view on my camera phone and thinking, Dear Lord, when did I get that old-lady neck? 49 is trying to see the full half of the glass: I hardly ever have to shave my legs these days. There aren’t yet grays to cover in my dishwater hair. My laugh lines are deeper than the crease between my brows.
49 is leaving behind bikinis, but still believing that my body can do new things. 49 is sighing over the yoga poses in Phyllis Grant’s Instagram feed and vowing to nail a handstand. 49 is going to Dailey Method classes twice a week, and admiring the svelte arms of the college girls but being more impressed by the kickass 60-year-old with her full-form push-ups and planks.
49 is feeling smug that I’ve raised a daughter who loves Conor Oberst as much as I do. Who runs downstairs on my birthday, breathless, to tell me that his new album is on NPR’S First Listen. 49 is hearing the song “You Are Your Mother’s Child” for the first time on that 49th birthday, just before both of those graduations, and standing in the pantry, sobbing.
49 is having friends with newly-emptied nests, and hearing tales of salad dinners and mid-week music shows. 49 is knowing that we’d be there too, if not for the fact of that twelve-year-old. 49 is realizing that we have a whole ‘nother teendom ahead of us–this time with the charming kid who figured out how to take shots of his butt on PhotoBooth at three, who has snuck more cookies for breakfast than his siblings ever did, who has cracked more passwords. Father, Son, Holy Spirit.
49 is meeting fellow homeschooling mamas who are nursing. And envying them that cocoon of closeness, but knowing I wouldn’t want to start all over again.
49 is still going to concerts with my husband. We drink gin and tonics at Dogwood before shows at The Fox and giggle that many of the hipster patrons are the same age as our kid. 49 is having a husband with a baby face and Spanish skin who still gets carded. And loving him and despising him for it.
49 is being married to that husband for almost 26 years–more years married than not. 49 is still being amazed at his ability to clean up, and fix things, and go, go, go after working all day. 49 is learning to be parents of young adults together, and knowing that he’s the only one in the world who sees the two-year-old simmering just beneath the surface of the 22-year-old, like I do. 49 is still loving a glass of wine together–in a restaurant, at the kitchen table, on our patio as the sun sets–and making plans. Only now our plans aren’t of the kids we’ll have, and the house we’ll build–but the house-fixes we’ll make, the trips we’ll take. The times the five of us will be together again.
49 is having parents who are healthy, and finally learning to stop taking this for granted. In August they celebrate their 50th anniversary. My father chases down super moons with his camera after midnight; my mother spends time with the old, the bereaved, the dying, and goes to exercise class, despite having her knee replaced last June. 49 is having friends with parents who are sick, who are gone, and realizing that I am incredibly blessed.
49 is clipping a Fitbit to my undies. Getting a little rush every time that message on my phone tells me I nailed my 10,000 steps.
49 is green smoothies for breakfast and salads for lunch. 49 is eating less cheese, less bread, but knowing that I will never, ever give up pizza.
49 is having come of age in the 80s, when I cruised around the suburbs in my baby blue Pinto with the fake wood paneling and the ET Phone Home! bumper sticker, Duran Duran’s Rio blaring from the speakers. 49 means dressing up like Madonna circa Desperately Seeking Susan for Halloween and having the young homeschooling mamas look at me quizzically because they don’t get the reference. 49 means watching The Breakfast Club with my daughter and having her say I wish I grew up in the 80s. 49 means teaching her how to make her hair big, and knowing that while my own hair will never reach the heights that it did at 21, I will never give up my hair spray.
49 is understanding that I am more of a weird introvert than I ever realized. 49 is getting that I’m socially awkward, terrible at cocktail talk and that I get worked up about abstract ideas that don’t interest most people. 49 is being kind to my inner dork, and being grateful for the friends who put up with me.
49 is beginning to exchange playdates and park days for breakfasts and lunches with the ladies–and understanding that these will fuel me when my kids are gone.
49 is having spent seventeen years homeschooling kids. 49 is knowing that before long my days will be my own, and feeling giddy at the prospect. 49 is imagining days of writing for hours–and knowing that the years before will be my subject matter.
49 is seeing the gnarled hands of an old woman in a cafe, and beginning to see the beauty in all those hands hold. 49 is trying to see my own hands, slowly spotting and deflating, with the same kindness and reverence.
49 is the year before 50. 49 is revving up. 49 is hurtling towards a year that is anything but depressing, I see that now. A year that is full of life, and potential, with a focus on the self that I haven’t had since 20, but with less self-centeredness, somehow. A year that is the glorious sum of all that came before it, with the wrinkles so necessary to prove it.