Acting My Age?

Why is that young girl trying to fire roast tomatoes in her mother’s kitchen? And why is she alone? Shouldn’t an adult be nearby supervising her activities? Why can’t she just play with an Easy Bake Oven like a normal girl? Why is that boy so concerned with upcoming Black Friday flat screen TV sales? Isn’t he too young to get credit anyway? Shouldn’t he be playing video games or pushing around a Tonka truck or something?

These are just a few of the questions I find myself asking on a regular basis during the daily barrage of television commercials. For some reason, I see children everywhere… acting as adults. They’re buying furniture, cars and carpeting. They’re calling for an exterminator or trying to figure out what to do about their leaky roof or their 401k. And I can’t help but want to scream: “YOU’RE TOO YOUNG TO WORRY ABOUT THIS $#*@!”

Or am I just too old?

Within the last five years or so I have discovered that the characters on TV, whether on the news, starring in the commercials or playing that of a leading role have all gotten dramatically younger. REALLY. They are younger. Start paying attention if you don’t believe me. They used to be older than me. The people playing moms and dads LOOKED like moms and dads — they most certainly didn’t look like ME. The people playing doctors and cops and attorneys LOOKED like mature doctors, cops and attorneys.

And I always looked up to them. Literally and figuratively. They were taller, wiser, grayer, more experienced and well versed in the ways of the world. They had to make the big decisions like where to invest their money, when to sell the house, from whom to purchase car insurance. All I had to do was be young and not worry about such things.

Which is why I find it so shocking that these roles are being played by people who not only resemble me… but who are YOUNGER than me! Near as I can tell, this problem is only going to get worse. TV people stay the same age forever. But I will keep on pulling away and pulling away. One day I suppose the women in the osteoporosis / arthritis / adult diaper commercials will look younger than me. Perhaps by then I won’t be quite as shocked. That or I’ll be too tired to care.

I guess it’s true what they say about staying 18 forever… in our own minds. And that’s probably a really good thing. Because no matter the number of candles on the cake or lines in the mirror we should always be too young to see ourselves and our contemporaries actually acting our age.

“Men Don’t Make Passes…

… at girls who wear glasses.”

Isn’t that how the saying goes?

“Awwwww man!” I cried out from beneath the golden glow of the living room lamp. “It looks better. Damn.” Wondering what all the fuss was about Lee yelled out to me from the computer room.

“Isn’t that what they are for, Joanna?” he questioned in a slightly exasperated but still inquisitive tone. “Aren’t your new glasses supposed to make things clearer for you?”

“YEEEEESSSSSSSSS. But only for when I’m toiling away in front of THAT thing all day long.” I groaned, while stomping into the room he was in and making wild gestures toward the computer screen. “They weren’t supposed to be for reading too. The doctor said so. He said that I was mildly far-sighted and that the ONLY time I needed to use them was while sitting at the computer. Do you KNOW what this latest development MEANS!?!” I whined.

“That you need glasses? That you’re eyes are going bad?” Lee said in a teasing manner.

“Well, yes… THAT. But it actually means that I AM GETTING OLD. When you first liked me, I was a mere kitten at 17… with perfect vision. Now look at the version you’ve got. I’m getting old.” Defeated, I lumbered out of the room—shoulders slumpled, glasses in hand—and plopped down cross-legged in the recliner. As I slid the glasses back onto my face I thought to myself… At least I can still cross my legs under me. That’s something. Isn’t it?

I pretended to read but what I was actually doing was studying the backs of my hands and the tops of my thighs… assessing them for similar signs of wear and tear like my eyes are apparently beginning to show. Thiiiiis is how it starts… I said to myself. First it’s the eyes, then it’s something else.

After awhile of trying to frame the words on the page with my corrective lenses I developed a headache and realized that I’d plowed completely through chapter 18 entirely unaware of what it had said. I sighed, put the book down and headed into the kitchen.

Since I was no longer reading, I slid the glasses on top of my head and proceeded to rinse a few dishes. Peering into the darkness on the other side of the window above the sink I noticed an unfamiliar woman staring back at me. My first thought was of course… When did this happen?

Then the next one came barreling down… even more terrifying than the last… In another 17 years, after losing not only my sight and the ability to cross my once-nimble legs beneath me, I will have lost my mind too. Therefore I’ll probably have one of those chains around my neck, dangling from either side of my face so that I never, ever lose them.

Oh sure, I imagine that I’ll “misplace” them from time to time — searching wildly about the house, turning over couch cushions and scattering tubes of BENGAY and bits of mail from AARP… But of course it will only be a matter of time before Lee walks in (with his superior vision) and points out to me that they’ve indeed been on my head the entire time.

For the sake of posterity… here I am… still young “enough” to be sans-chain.

Glory Days

Lately I’ve become rather entranced by a popular song on the radio. I can’t seem to get enough of it. And no, contrary to the title, it is not a Springsteen song. On my drive to and from the office I frantically search the stations hoping to catch it right at the beginning or that it will be coming on any second.

If I switch to a station and find that it is already playing I am immediately thrilled unless it is at the very end. In which case I inevitably pound my fists on the steering wheel and let loose a blue streak of R-rated language. I begin the desperate search all over again and miraculously, on occasion, I catch it just as it starts.

It is completely possible that in the span of less than one mile my mood will go from bitter disgust to absolute delight. I know… I have some moderate to severe mood issues… but whatever.

Wondering what the song is?

It is Someone Like You by Adele. And although I love the entire song musically, there is really only one verse that grabs me personally by the gut and doesn’t let go until long after the final notes have resolved and faded…

You know, how the time flies.

Only yesterday, was the time of our lives.

We were born and raised in a summer haze.

Bound by the surprise of our glory days.

What a perfect way to capture the sentiment of the passage of time and the disappearance of childhood hopes and dreams. The concept that our youth is as fleeting as a summer is so true. I remember vividly the infinite hope and excitement that filled my younger years as I waited with bated breath for what was to come. In those years… I was sure it would be nothing short of spectacular!

For me, the verse conjures up images of crystal clear water rushing over young feet and legs — browned by the sun… Lazy summer afternoons lying in the grass, the sound of a friend’s laughter mixing with my own and filling the air… Long drives to the middle of nowhere surrounded by the flashing of fire flies… Endless talks about boys and what “HE” would be like… Hearts full of the knowledge that whoever he was, wherever he was… he would be perfect.

The older I get, the more aware I become of the brevity of youth. But I know in my heart that although life is short like a mere summer haze—in what remains of my song—I hope there are still plenty more glory days.

Old Friends – Part I

Some days I find it impossible to believe that Time is only marching forward. Despite the daily reminders that surround me, at times I refuse to accept it. I live in constant denial that all of us are getting older… Shoving the notion to the back of my brain like pushing a hideous, itchy sweater to the back of the closet.

Some of the reminders are harmless and precious like witnessing your niece go off to her first big dance. Some of them are not so great such as the discovery of a few grey hairs, new laugh lines or a pain where there never used to be one. Worse yet, some of them are downright cruel in witnessing loved ones succumb to the disease of time.

On occasion reminders of relentless forward motion catch me by surprise, as do the emotions that accompany them.

This weekend my parents were doing some serious house cleaning in order to make room for their new furnace to be installed. When I stopped by for a visit, my dad slid a large blue plastic storage tub in my direction and removed the lid, asking me if the stuffed animals inside belonged to my sister or me.

Immediately I was taken aback at the instant recognition of some very old, very faithful friends. I slowly bent down and began sifting through the soft synthetic fur and yarn discovering one by one an old familiar face. I held back tears as I lifted old dolls and plush critters from their resting places and held them in my 36-year-old hands for the first time in easily two decades.

The first one I noticed was Stephanie, an oversized, homemade doll made for me by a close family friend at the request of my parents one Christmas. She was made to look just like a Cabbage Patch Kid either because my parents couldn’t get their hands on one due the insane demand for them that year or in trying to give my sister and I both a very nice Christmas, they didn’t quite have the money. It didn’t matter. I loved that doll. She was different from all of my other friends’ factory dolls because she had been made JUST for me.

Then there were the couple of Cabbage Patch dolls that came a year or two later, a stuffed penguin that I’d bought at Sea World with my very own money the summer my mom, grandmother, aunts, sister and cousins all went together and had a picnic before seeing Shamu. I still remember the stupid 80’s outfit I wore that day. There was also a HUGE pink Easter bunny with big floppy ears and an Easter picture stitched on its belly. I can’t remember exactly where it came from or when I got it… but I do remember it being special to me.

I didn’t recognize each item in the big blue storage tub, so I assumed that the others must have belonged to my sister. My parents wanted me to take a smaller cardboard box of my stuff with me but I resisted. My reason for resisting wasn’t because I didn’t want an extra box sitting around the house. I resisted because I was fearful of the emotion being stirred within me.

Why on earth was I getting so emotional over some old box of stuffed toys!?

To be continued in tomorrow’s post…

While The Leaves Are Still Green

After eleven years in the desert, one of the things I’ve enjoyed most about coming home to Ohio is seeing all of the green. Don’t get me wrong, the desert has it’s own distinct beauty with wide open skies fringed with colorful mountains, and long, long welcoming stretches of road that unfold and roll out in front of you wherever you turn your wheels… But the desert earth is brown. This time of year in Northeastern Ohio, it seems like the whole landscape has been draped in varying shades of green velvet and I can’t seem to take my eyes off of it. It captivates me! It is like I am seeing it for the very first time. I grew up with it all around me, but I never really SAW it until I went away.

For a few weeks I have been intending to grab the camera early on a Saturday morning and take some photos of the lush green that has enveloped everything… The farm fields, the rolling hillsides, the thick and towering trees, the mossy embankments and the rows upon rows of golden-tassled corn. There is something amazing about the early morning sunlight illuminating a bright green leaf making it look as though it were lit from within, or glinting off the dew making everything appear as though it’s been laced with diamonds… and I want to capture it before it disappears for another 9 months.

Naturally, I never get up early enough to actually accomplish this. I seem to love my bed a little too much. I can literally sleep for hours… especially on a Saturday morning.

But yesterday on my lunch break, I noticed that a few of the trees were not so green anymore. And when I went to the park to eat my lunch, I found it curious that the edges of the very same leaves that last week seemed so fresh and new, are now tinged with another color! Fall is on it’s way.

Autumn has always been my favorite season. I love the explosion of reds, oranges, yellows and purples that seems to happen all at once before the leaves surrender to the cold and drop to the ground. The chill in the air invigorates me! The smell of sugary-sweet foliage and wood smoke makes me want to find that favorite flannel. But when the days get shorter as darkness steals more and more of the light, I am reminded of how fast it goes.

And I don’t just mean the lengthy days of summer… I mean, it ALL goes fast. 

I can’t believe my niece is now the age I was when she was born. I can’t believe that the kids I once taught to swim can now be found at the YMCA, signing their own kids up for the very same lessons. I can’t believe that when I open my mouth, it is now my mother’s words coming out instead of my own. How does it happen? WHEN does it happen?

It happens day after day, night after night, little by little and in giant leaps and bounds. Gradually and all at once. We go about the business of our lives and before we know it, OUR leaves are tinged with another color. We get older, we build families, the youngers become the olders and just like the marching on of fall, winter, spring and summer… The whole pattern will repeat again and again. It’s been going on for centuries, and yet we’re surprised when it happens to us! Just as every fall I am surprised when I see the tips of that very first leaf start to blush…

You’d think by now I’d know.

There is nothing I can do to stop it. In the end, none of my efforts will slow it or even affect it. The best thing I CAN do, the ONLY thing I CAN do is get up early on a Saturday morning and grab my camera while the leaves are still green.