My sister is turning thirty in about a week. It's odd, and for some reason, emotional for me.
"Thirty" was always the number that as a child, I figured I'd be an adult at. I figured at thirty, I'd be my prettiest, happiest, smartest and most wise. Even as the end of my twenties ebbed slowly into my thirties, still, I feel that way--the same way that I did in my youth; waiting for the becoming of an adult.
Outwardly, yes, I suppose I am one. By all appearances children, mortgages, car payments, parent-teacher conferences--those denote the activities of an adult. It's just that when I lie down at night, I still wonder when I'll actually begin to feel like one.
Many of the insecurities of my youth are still lodged within me and speak to me. "What if they don't like me? What if they laugh? What if when I walk away, they are talking about me?" I know that many times, I'm still perceived as the snobby child, reading on the playground, too good to talk to anyone, when honestly, I'm so unsure of myself at times, I can't even begin to think of how to interact with someone else.
Of course, I know that thirty is just a number. How can I so fiercely still feel and recall my youth--as though it were just a blink away--when in reality, it becomes further removed each day?
Is this how it will be then, always? Even when wrinkles line my face and hands and there is no longer any semblance of the girl in my tattered photo albums compared to the woman before the mirror? I'll still smell and feel and live in my youth, while to everyone else, I'm old? So perhaps it's not just my imagination, the sadness I think I see behind the eyes of so many elderly?
When I recall my family, we are young. We are unbroken and innocent and laugh freely; the way that we did before we realized that sometimes, our laughter was too loud or distinct; before we began repressing it--taking for granted that we'd want to laugh that way later.
My mom recently said to my aunt, "It's scary, isn't it, coming upon sixty and still feeling like a teenager"? And I felt her then: the girl in the photo, holding the hands of the man that she'd marry, her head tilted back and happiness so obviously written upon her face. I'm not sure that I knew her before that moment, for I'd been so busy calling her "mom", I'd never devoted much time to thinking that she hadn't always answered to that name. Once upon a time, perhaps she, too, looked at thirty as a million years away and then wrestled with the passing of it when it arrived upon her doorstep when she had only closed her eyes for a moment.
Thirty, when so very clearly, I recall her "three", and her "three" feels closer in time than the celebration planned for next week. Is that possible, really, for time to pass so quickly and yet remain so still within? How is it that I'll hug an amazing woman and wish her "Happy Thirtieth" and yet still see before me a flaxen-haired child, aged around six, thirty a lifetime away?
What are these things? What do they mean? Do we ever know?