“That girl is Cliff’s mom.” I was picking up my boys from school. The two boys staring at me were seven or eight years old, or about 20 years younger than I. The second boy took issue with his friend’s assessment, “That’s no girl. That’s a woman.” How the second lad determined I belonged in an older category, I’ll never know.
Before gray hair showed up when someone described persons as “in their sixties,” I’d think, retirees. People “in their seventies,” and god forbid, “in their eighties,” my mind categorized them as old folks. They were the people who always asked, “Do you have senior discounts?” People “in their nineties,” I didn’t even go there. It’s been some time since the young boy pushed me up a step on the stairway to heaven, from girl to a woman. Today, further up the staircase, many, perhaps most, people see me as an older woman.
“No. That won’t be necessary,” the bartender waved my driver’s license away. I was pleased he’d recognized me as a “grown up.” I was 24. Then it happened with higher frequency. Nobody wanted me to prove my age. Eventually, the only time I offered it up was when it embarrassed my kids. “Mom, seriously? Do you have to do this?” Last year, at Jessup Farm Brewery, in Fort Collins, they refused to serve me a drink without proof of age. It felt kind of nice. Not so much for Tim who drove home to get it. The bartender said it was a state law. She could have skipped this information. But it was fun to hand over my driver’s license, and a good wrist exercise for my arthritis, even if my picture conjured up an image of Alcatraz residents. When women friends, 60+, came to visit, Jessup Brewery’s policy was a hit. It must have affected how old they felt at that moment because they started flirting with young men who enjoyed it or were good sports, you decide, resulting in a few selfies with their young boyfriends.
My sister, Stella, when in her forties confessed or lamented, “The only guys who still whistle at me are construction workers, or high school boys looking for an experience.”
Young children, not socialized, fear not speaking truth to age. Eli, age four or five, liked to pinch the skin on my arm announcing, “it’s stretchy.” Kai, five, and I walked hand-in-hand across the street to Crazy Karl’s Pizza. Not a talkative youngster at the time, we sat across from one another in a state of love and pizza bliss. Between a bite of pizza and a sip of apple juice, he said, “You are an old person.” It broke the mood momentarily, then I pointed out, “and you are a young person.” The teacher in me seeing this as a learning opportunity added, “and your mom is an in-between person.” The bliss erased, the indignant five-year-old gave me a stern look, “My mom is not an in-between person. She is mom.” I decided this was not the time to go deeper into age differences. “You are right, Kai, she is mom.” Then we ordered ice cream with M&Ms, fudge sauce, and whipped cream. Age no longer mattered.
Alyssa, the cashier at the grocery store, offered to have my groceries carried to my car. “Thank you, Alyssa. I will use both hands to carry my loaf of rye bread to the car.” I recalled a friend using this exact situation to announce, “I’m going back to dyeing my hair. I’m not ready for this.” In other words, she plans to die young, but as late as possible.
As I ascend towards heaven my fear of heights is diminishing. I’m in no hurry to reach the top, just enjoying the view and singing to myself, When I get older losing my hair. Many years from now. Will you still be sending me a Valentine. Birthday greetings, bottle of wine.