My mom just turned ______.
Well, I’m not going to fill in the blank. Let’s just say she turned yesterday.
When we celebrate a birthday, why do we exclaim that we’ve “turned”? Like, “Joe just turned 60 and he’s so grumpy.” Or Jilly turned 13 last week and is now a true teenager.”What happens to us, when we “turn” into a new age? Do the wrinkles around our eyes suddenly crease deeper? Do our muscles turn stiffer, or weaker, on our birth date?
Or is it more ethereal than that. Do we suddenly turn into a “new” person, a different person,because the calendar says we’re now one year older?
All I know is that if I filled in the blank in the first sentence of this post , my mom would never talk to me again. Or worse, she’d talk to me, but believe me, her words would not be loving or kind.
And I understand that – now.
When I was a child, I never knew my mom’s age. She never revealed it to my brother and me. Of course, at 5, or 10, or even 15, who cares how old our parents are? They’re ancient and we’ll never be that old.
But I do remember the time, when I was in my 20s, when my mom turned a certain number, let’s guess 53, and she told everyone at the birthday party that she’d just “turned” 43. I did the math, and wondered if she really gave birth to me when she was only a teenager. Because all along, I’d been told she didn’t have her first child until she was almost 30.
I approached my dad with the sensitive subject. He kind of smiled nervously, shrugged his shoulders, and suggested I ask my mom. From the nervous tic in his shoulders, I figured that was a bad idea.
For years after, I noticed that my mom gave a different number to her age anytime my bro or I asked her. One month she was 51, another time 48, three months later, maybe 52. And we were in our late 30s by then!
By the time I was 40 and lying about my age as competently as my mom, I snuck up to my dad and begged him to tell me how old mom was. He shook his head at me in disappointment. As sagely as the good witch telling Dorothy that all along, all she had to do was click her red heels to go home, my father said, “All you’ve had to do is check out her driver’s license.” After a pause he added, “but don’t ever tell her I gave you that advice!”
So, I’m ashamed to admit right here, to my readers across the world, that I did just that. Me, a parent, an upstanding citizen with no arrest record (and just one speeding ticket…or two), flew across the country to supposedly “visit” my mother. Then I sent her off for an errand, and like a thief lusting for a hidden diamond ring, I peeked into her purse and found her driver’s license.
There it was – in black and white and I felt sorry all over.
What did it matter how old she was? Age is only a number. Attitude is everything. She looks at least 20 years younger than her “licensed” age, she acts 30 years younger (I’ve been known to whisper to friends who ask: “my mom is 80 going on 18”). She’s beautiful and trim, laughs a lot, surrounds herself with delightful friends, yells at me if I try to carry her suitcase when she visits (“I’m perfectly capable, thank you!”), and reads voraciously.Honestly, I can’t keep up with my mom – her energy is friskier than a puppy’s, yet her wisdom hits the mark whenever I need a mother’s words to get me through life’s kinks.
“People have perceptions of what 60 is supposed to be, and 70, and 80 and beyond. I don’t want to be categorized,” she insists.
Mom, I salute you.
And I’m so glad you didn’t “turn” into anything other than your most wonderful self on this birthday.