One of the funniest recollections from my teaching days goes back to something a little Grade 1 boy named Christopher said to me. He was the type of student that teachers adored, studious, well-mannered, biddable. This child bent to every task asked of him with a single-minded purpose, his little tongue wedged squarely between his teeth in avid concentration.
So you can imagine my surprise when he came to school one day with I could only describe as “ants in his pants.” He couldn’t sit still long enough to focus on anything. By the end of the day when he couldn’t even stay in the line-up for dismissal, I finally took him aside and asked him what was up.
He beamed at me and answered in a flurry of excitement, the words tumbling from his mouth in one long-winded explanation: “Today is my dad’s birthday and he has the day off work and he’s picking me up and we’re going out for supper and there will be cake and I have a present for him!”
I had to suppress the tug of a smile as I nodded. “I see. I see. Well, that answers things then.” The bell rang and as Christopher exited the class, he paused and said, “I don’t know how old my dad is, but I know he’s less than a hundred.”
When I saw his father in the hallway, I wished him a happy birthday. “And I hear from Christopher that you’re less than a hundred!”
When I asked my little grandson recently how old he thought I was, he pursed his lips in contemplation. I gave him a hint by admitting that I was a lot older than he was. A logical child, he replied with the largest number he could count to: 20.
The look on his face as I counted past that to my actual age was priceless. It was a mixture of wariness—was Nonna pulling his leg?—mixed with fascinated disbelief, as I’m sure he had no idea numbers went that high.
When I was a young adult, I never feared aging; back then it felt like I had all the time in the world. That was before children. After I had my sons, I didn’t have time to worry, let alone think about aging! Those early years were a blur of diapers, teething, and sleepless nights. Typical of most new parents, I slogged my way through, oblivious to the passage of time other than to survive from one day to the next.
Once over those initial hurdles, the school years were no less hectic with playdates and a myriad of school functions; my time was taken up with bake sales, costume making, homework checking, lunch packing, and innumerable soccer and softball practices. The years simply flew by, and before I knew it, I was turning 40. Even then, I wasn’t phased; after all, 40 was the new 30, right?
Over the years, I’ve come to understand that age is really a relative term—I try to keep in mind that I am older than some and not as old as others. And besides, age is just a number anyway.
I may not be as nimble as I once was and I forget the occasional thing now and then, but I still play cars and trucks on my hands and knees with my grandson, run through the sprinkler with him on a hot summer’s day, and toboggan with him on the rare snow days in Victoria—over jumps no less!
When I look in the mirror, the face that stares back at me has succumbed to the inevitable ravages of time. I note with dismay the greying hair, the deeply lined furrows, the slackening of muscle tone, and yet despite all of that, I still feel like the same young girl inside. The eyes that look out at me have the same mischief lurking in their depths in spite of the sorrows and burdens they have witnessed.
Now that I’ve reached middle age—and then some—I can truly understand and appreciate the old saying that grandchildren keep you young. Their blessing is that they free the young person inside each of us. They remind us of the simple joy of just living, of not dwelling on what has been or worrying about tomorrow, but of living fully and completely in the moment. When I am with my little grandson, I feel quite simply—ageless.