I turned 44 today.
Outside, the open areas are covered with snow, and because it’s a Sunday, and because there’s a pandemic, the streets are quiet and empty. Light spills in through the window, gray skies glaring off of white, rowhouse roofs and the stark, distant lines of leafless trees.
I’m feeling hopeful today, with the new year ahead. I don’t have much writing work lined up for January and February, but that’s not abnormal. Maile and I have been doing this freelance thing for many years now, and it takes a lot more than it used to for the anxiety alarm bells to start ringing. I’m thinking only of today, of how it feels to be getting older, of all these years that have come and gone, and of the many (or few) remaining for me.
For my birthday breakfast, I chose Apple Jacks. Of course I did. And Leo and Poppy have been working on little drawings that they’ll give me later today. Having children is a strange thing—I look at them, and they are at that precise age when my own memories begin, memories of a mobile home in Laredo, Texas, and of moving home to cousins and aunts and uncles, to Lancaster where my family has lived for thirteen generations. I remember being five or six and falling in love with cornfields and cemeteries and empty, weekday churches. Piles of autumn leaves burning, and long winter afternoons spent sledding until our fingers and toes were numb.
Having children will do this to you, watching them grow up right there in front of you will send your mind into a spiral of memory, of old days come back again, being relived.
44 years old. When my oldest son is 44, I will be 70. And I will think back on my mid-forties as a time of joy and hardship, as a busy time when we were constantly trying to catch our breath, of a beautiful time with small children experiencing their big delights.
I hope to live to 70, or 80, or 90. But even if I don’t, 44 is a beautiful thing.