Just a number

(Note: I swear I didn’t get this idea from that “Fifteen” song, but after I wrote it, that is definitely what came to mind. Anyway, here’s a little pondering on numbers)


I’m twelve and my toes grip the slippery side of the pool deck, my body poised to take off in a mediocre dive that will hopefully take me further than my opponent. I adjust my goggles, push them against my eyes a little tighter to lock out the water. The goal is to be the first to retrieve the plastic stick that now sits on the bottom of ten feet of cold, chlorinated water. I’m not above playfully shoving my competition out of the way as we both reach the coveted treasure at the same time. I grasp the stick and then push off the bottom of the pool, feeling the burn in my thighs and my lungs, the same but different. I surface triumphantly, the dive stick raised high in my hand, laughing as my opponent lunges toward me to drag me under in good-natured retaliation.

I’m nineteen and I laugh loudly with my friends where we’ve gathered on the porch to have a few drinks. I probably shouldn’t pour this next bourbon, but my mind is too cloudy to reason that it’s not the best idea. What is the saying, “Beer before liquor..” or is it the other way around? I can’t remember at the moment, and only care a little. We are all a bit loud, and most of us have to work tomorrow, but the laughter and the liquid feels too good. It’s only a Monday, but the balmy summer night air has almost convinced me it’s Saturday.

I’m twenty six and I listen in on the conference call, while secretly taking notes on another project off to the side. I have to multitask or I’ll fall behind, I reason. Besides this call seems gratuitous and long winded. I shift in my rolling leather chair, straighten the skirt on my favorite black dress and flip open my calendar, jotting down another commitment. It just barely fits in between two other meetings that day. This is actually good. Things are overwhelming but exciting. While I’m at it, I see I’m going to be on the other side of town next thursday,  so I send off an email to try and schedule lunch with a former colleague.

I’m thirty four and I push the baby stroller casually down the street, flanked by two other children who chatter incessantly about when it will be their turn to push. In my mind I’m making a grocery list, categorizing items as they pertain to each meal I need to provide for the week. Alternately I wonder if I remembered to move the laundry from the washer to the dryer. The sun is warm on my arms, but there is a lovely breeze and I only feel a little hot when I’m pushing uphill. The baby stirs and I replace his pacifier, smiling and cooing at him, a feeling of complete contentment in this moment, despite the chaos in my mind.

I’m forty, actually, and everything I described above literally happened this week. No one will ever convince me that I’m forty. It may be mathematically true, but it is not my reality.

This morning, in fact, I’m six, munching on granola in a little bowl, curled up on the couch in my pajamas and watching cartoons with the other kids. Seconds later I’m eighty, my hip giving out when I stand up and hobble to the kitchen, feeling every nerve ending in my legs protest. That’s what I get for pretending to be ten yesterday when I rode my bike around the block. One of my kids speaks sharply to the other; “Hey! That’s enough!” I respond in standard Mom voice, and suddenly I’m back to being forty so fast I almost get whiplash.




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