No way, do I wish I was 22 again, and I am absolutely not ready to be 71 quite yet. However, there are definitely things about both my mother’s and my daughter’s lives right now that I most assuredly envy.
Most people would find it easy to turn all kinds of shades of green remembering what it was like to be 22 going on awesome. I stare at my daughter’s knees, for example. My God, they are gorgeous. I don’t see folds of skin threatening to droop even farther; mysteriously overnight making their way down to my shins. Eventually will the over the knee skin end up at my ankles? That is truly horrifying.
I watch her eat. And eat. And eat. She can still do that and wear the little black dress on Saturday night. Her body has not yet become tortured by the oh so sexy undergarment we all know and love to hate. She is not forced to wage war in her attempts to both put on and get off anything emblazoned with the word “Spanx.” She’s yet to leave her dignity on her bedroom floor or understood just how much tequila drunk on a Saturday night is necessary to get that thing off and still consider yourself sexy enough for any type of romantic interlude with your husband.
She’s surely never been caught in the Spanx (don’t lie, we all have), to know that once you get past the panic, then the hysterical laughter, comes the “I’ll never wear these” again stage. (Unfortunately that stage only lasts til next Saturday night). She hasn’t been left staring at herself in the mirror astonished by all the compression marks gouged into her now red, splotchy, and sweaty body. I’ll bet she doesn’t wonder if he recognizes her without the Spanx as the same woman with whom he just enjoyed dinner and cocktails laced with tequila?
She doesn’t know I watch her get onto the bus when, each time after a visit, I drive her to the station so that she can head back to her apartment in NYC. Yup, NYC. She’s a 22 -year -old, beautiful, smart, funny, single girl with lots of friends living and playing in the Big Apple. I can’t even imagine. Or maybe it’s the imagining that’s killing me.
The thing is, I don’t regret my decision to be married at 22 or to have my first child at 25. I don’t. Really. But once in a while, I sneak a look at her; at that fresh- faced, eager for anything, willing to get out there girl and wonder where I went and what I missed. Yes, sometimes, I admit, I am green with envy.
It might be harder to imagine feeling jealous of my 71- year- old mother. She speaks to me of various new ailments; new aches and pains that come out of nowhere on what seems like a daily basis. It is true that a good deal of her time is spent on doctors visits and making sure that all of her 71- year -old husband’s aches and pains are taken care of as well. Having just turned 50, I’ve gotten my first real peak into the world of aging, and I don’t doubt that it isn’t for the weak of heart or of spirit.
However, my parents have been married for 53 years, and as far as I can see, still really like each other. They raised three great kids, or at least, I think we are pretty great. My mom has been to three of her children’s weddings where she witnessed them marry the loves of their lives. She has real and enduring relationships with all of her kids and her kids’ spouses. She has been involved in all 8 of her grandchildren’s lives, and thanks to my getting married and having kids so young, she will, most likely, experience great -grandparenthood. To me that possibility seems like unimaginable joy.
It’s true that at any age, she will always worry about the people that she loves. But to know that your children are grown, happy and successful must be a wonderful type of contentment. I am still amazed by her. So much of what I’ve learned about life and about marriage, the commitment of family, the importance of travel and of independence all comes from her. I only hope my kids might feel the same about their mother someday.
I hope that when I reach her age, I, too, can look upon the lives of my kids with that sense of accomplishment, of a job well done. I worry about whom my kids will meet, marry and love; about what kind of careers will make them happy, about where they will live, whom they will become. I dream about one day having happy, healthy, and, as my mom would say, colorful grandchildren. I long for the type of relationships with them that my mom has so successfully developed with her own.
There are still so many unknowns for them, so many things they have yet to experience and so much that I can’t control or do for them. I can hope and pray that they live happy lives, but to be at an age and a time in my life where I can know it all turns out ok is a state of mind worthy of envy.
I’m not ready to be in my seventies yet. To be quite honest, I really liked my forties and the fifties have started out pretty damn well so far. I guess the beauty of the “somewhere in between” is that I can look, albeit through a certain green- hued lens, back with joy and ahead with anticipation.
I do need to be careful to remember to enjoy the now. Because as we all know, we never know how good it is while we are in it, and we can never get today back.
So here’s to being 22, 51 and 71. All good. All enviable.
Are any of you experiencing the “in between?”