“The way you grow old is kind of like an onion or like the rings inside a tree truck or like my little wooden dolls that fit one inside the other, each year inside the next one. That’s how being eleven years old is.
You don’t feel eleven. Not right away. It takes a few days, weeks even, sometimes even months before you say Eleven when they ask you. And you don’t even feel smart eleven, not until you’re almost twelve. That’s the way it is.” ~ Sandra Cisneros, “Eleven”
It’s birthday season in our family—nine in the next seven weeks, beginning with my husband’s this Tuesday. In preparation, I added scotch tape and wrapping paper to the running Walmart list on the fridge and I bought extra butter and powdered sugar at the grocery store last week. All the better to keep the birthday cake supply constant, you know. After the next seven weeks, I anticipate that we will all be fatter, poorer, and, well, older.
I must admit that, although my own birthday is a fun excuse for demanding my favorite foods and a reprieve from dinner dishes, in actuality, it doesn’t mean much. Like many of you, I’m sure, I don’t really keep track of my age all that well. Maybe it’s a purposeful oversight on my part, given that my husband is two years younger than me. Or maybe it’s just that it doesn’t matter what the number is, but what the feeling is. I’ve always loved Sandra Cisneros’s short story “Eleven” in her book Woman Hollering Creek. The narrator sums up birthdays and age for me perfectly:
“What they don’t understand about birthdays and what they never tell you is that when you’re eleven, you’re also ten, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two and one. And when you wake up on your eleventh birthday you expect to feel eleven, but you don’t. You open your eyes and everything’s just like yesterday, only it’s today. And you are–underneath the year that makes you eleven.
Like some days you might say something stupid, and that’s the part of you that’s still ten. Or maybe some days you might need to sit on your mama’s lap because you’re scared, and that’s the part of you that’s five. And maybe one day when you’re all grown up maybe you will need to cry like if you’re three, and that’s okay. That’s what I tell Mama when she’s sad and needs to cry. Maybe she’s feeling three.”
Today, I anticipate feeling 20 after I complete my morning run (unless my knees start hurting again, in which case, I’ll probably feel 35). And when I reach for another cookie this afternoon, I may feel 9 and subconsciously look over my shoulder for my mother, who always had a third eye for which of her seven children were inhaling the fruits of her labors.
What about you? What age do you feel best fits you right now?