It was my birthday. Before you wish me joy on this day, please let me clarify…it was my birthday…about a week and a half ago. So, I’m slow. That’s how it is when you get older!
I didn’t have a big milestone birthday. No intimidating “0” at the end of my age. No, I turned thirty…five. Turning thirty didn’t bother me. It felt normal and long overdue. Birthdays in general never affect me much. The kids get way more excited about my birthday than I do. But this birthday was different. It’s not that I think I’m old and decrepit. It’s just that 35 doesn’t sound right. It doesn’t seem like that should be my age. Does that make any sense?
Perhaps it has to do with the way the media and the medical community talk about age 35 in women. It’s like it’s our expiration date. Your body just goes along its merry little way, skipping and singing no doubt, and then…BAM! You’re 35. Fertility goes down. Risk of everything else under the sun goes up. Look out! You’re 35! It’s the beginning of the end.
I’m not having anymore babies, thirty-five or not. Sometimes I think for a brief moment about what it would be like to have another baby, but it’s very brief. My body is not able to do it, so I don’t dwell.
I’m most reminded of my age in the presence of the parents of my kids’ friends. Since it’s so common to have children later in life in our present society, I seem to frequently be the odd man out. Lonna’s teenage friends have parents pushing 50 or well into their 50’s. On the flip side, when I take Hilary to the playground, I do find mothers my age. But their five year old is usually their oldest child, not their youngest. I know I’m clearly not the only one in my generation to have a baby at 20. All those other women out there sure don’t seem to live around here, though.
I do feel like I’m missing a child sometimes. With Lonna and Jared so close in age, the gap down to Hilary is pronounced. Seems like there should be another child in the middle. So, it’s not that I’m missing a baby. Rather, I seem to be missing an 8 year old somewhere.
I grew up in the same situation. I was the youngest trailing along, much younger than my siblings. Sometimes I wish Hilary had a sibling who she could bond with like Lonna and Jared have always clicked. Sometimes I look at large families and sigh…just for second. Glory to God, I did let Him choose my family size. He just happened to pick the number three.
Jared had a doctor’s appointment on my birthday, so we trekked to the other side of the city. Even when we moved, we kept our pediatrician. Any mother knows that if you find a good pediatrician…you keep him/her no matter what! I’d drive much, much farther than I do now to see this doctor. She’s the best!
Since we were over in our old stomping grounds, we decided to pack a lunch and stop at our favorite park. We hadn’t been in a long time. It’s just a simple little nature area. Not much land. But the creek is so sweet in its whispering, and the rocks are so pleasing in their solid surety. It is a special place.
November here is a swinging mix of weather. You never know what you’ll get. On this day, we got the brightest sun that I’ve seen in months. Middle of July lazy day kind of bright. Casting a kaleidoscope of shadows from the mostly leafless trees.
I thought a lot about numbers. And days. And years. And time. Honestly, there have been multiple times in the last few years that reaching age 35 seemed like it might not happen. Every birthday is a gift.
How much I appreciate God’s rhythm of time. The cycle of the Church year, the flow of the daily services, the gentle push of the seasons. It reminds me that time is not at all what I think it is.
Last night, the cathedral had a Pan-Orthodox Unction service. The Orthodox version of an oldtime healing service. Unction is one of my favorite services. Not for the opportunity to pray for the healing of my body. I do pray for that, but it’s not the main point for me. Bodies come and go whether they are healed or not. Even if God heals me now, I’ll still die eventually of something. That’s life. That’s death. I’d much rather pray for the healing of my soul. For in it, I glimpse eternity.
Somewhere in the middle of the Unction service, I lost track of time. Rather, it stopped. The world melted away. I glimpsed God’s plan for time. Not one day to the next. Not past, present, or future. Not all those silly restraints I put on hours and minutes and seconds. Instead, one moment. One moment in a timeless God. Where numbers don’t matter.
How often I am at that place, swearing I’ll do everything I can to stay there. And then I seem to forget, and I get back to my plans and definitions for time. As if I could extend my life of my own will for even one second. In my ways there is no rhythm. No harmony. Only a clanging clash.
Forgive me Lord for numbering my days. Thank you for this year, this moment, this prayer. In the bright, bright sunlight. The length of shadows. The bubble of a brook. Yesterday, today, and forever.