My mom turned 90 on December 3d. I threw a party for her yesterday. Here's what she and I looked like:
Go ahead, say it. We look old. She perhaps slightly more so than me, but neither of us exactly in our prime. And, in fact, a close-up photo of the back of my head would have revealed that I was wearing my newly-acquired hearing aids. How's that for decrepitude? On Saturday I will turn 57. And yet, when I type that number, it feels like I'm lying. Whenever I read in a newspaper article that the subject is 57, my immediate reaction is: "Wow. Old." I have to stop and remind myself: Yo. That's you, honey.
Here's the thing: there are so many of me inside my head. The little girl who believed that witches resided inside the toilet and emerged when someone flushed, so in order to defend myself I would wash my hands, open the bathroom door, stand poised like a sprinter on the starter's block, then flush at hyperspeed and run like hell. The 8-year-old who dreamt at night of marrying the 19-year-old Paul McCartney. The tween who attended the Zionist summer camp where we sang the Israeli national anthem at line-up each morning. The high-schooler who tied my skate laces together over my shoulder to take the subway to the rink at Rockefeller Center. The incredibly sheltered college student who developed a crush on my classmate, Domingo Nieves, eight years older than me and back from serving as a medic in Vietnam.
We're all in here, all the people I've been. The young lawyer who spent her Saturday nights sitting in the back of comedy clubs, chatting with the other wives and girlfriends of the comics. The me who used to act in community theater. The me who worked as a stringer for my local paper. The me who was a single mother of a two-year-old son, spending weekends touring all the local firehouses so he could sit in the cabs of the trucks and wear the hats that swallowed up his head and the yellow coats that came down to his ankles. The me who represented a client on appeal who had been sentenced to the death penalty.
All of those me's and their moments on the stage are gone. But still... I feel so sure that there are many more me's still to come, so much to look forward to, so many bitter and sweet experiences from which to learn. So I don't feel old at all, really. And maybe, if I'm very fortunate, I never will.