Dirty Word Birthday

Lady In A Gray Hat, 11 x 14 inches, oil on canvas, ©2017, Jean McGuire

I’ve spent a lot of the last 10 years thinking, and talking, about being in my 50’s. I am convinced my generation has aged a lot differently than previous generations. It occurred to me recently that my days of talking about being in my 50’s are numbered. My birthday is not until May, but I will be 60 on my next birthday. Whoa!

I usually love my birthday and I have not had any problem with the past decade markers I’ve made it through. However, this one is throwing me for a loop already. No matter how you paint it, 60 is old.

Despite all the evidence to the contrary, I don’t see myself as getting old. I’m tired a lot, and my joints ache more than they used to, but I also am growing and learning every day. It’s also hard to reconcile turning 60 when so many memories from my childhood are so fresh in my mind:

I remember many of the kids I was went to kindergarten with. Their faces, their clothes, the games we played; these all seem like recent memories. I can almost smell the disinfectant that the school was bathed in, even though the school was torn down almost 40 years ago.

I can remember the smell of the lilac bush that was across the street from the school. The blooms were fragrant and abundant. As an adult, I am amazed how tolerant the owners were of the frequent stealing of blossoms.

I remember walking to school, a half-mile trek, either by myself or with other kids in the neighborhood. Whether it was a solo walk or accompanied depended on how punctual I was in leaving the house in the morning. Needless to say, I walked alone a lot.

I clearly remember how exciting it was to walk to school in our Halloween costumes. David, who lived two doors down wore an Indian outfit, including a full headdress.  I have no memory of what I was wearing, but boy, did that costume leave a mark on me! Of course, that costume would not be tolerated today, but in the early 60’s that was one of the less offensive costumes.

I remember the thrill of the first time I crossed the monkey bars. The monkey bars of the 60’s were a good five to six feet off the ground and the surface we landed on if we fell was hard asphalt. When you succeeded in attempts like this you did it on your own; no one was there to catch you if your hands slipped.

I also remember hating having to wear shorts under the dresses that were mandated at that time. Even on the coldest winter day, girls had to wear dresses to school, so my mother would force me to put on pants under my dress for the walk through the snow. It was so embarrassing to have be seen wearing both pants and a dress.

I remember tetherball was a huge draw during recess. The equivalent of a soccer ball was attached by a rope to a tall pole and the object of the game was to hit the ball as hard as you could to wrap the rope around the pole while the other person tried to prevent you from doing so. It is now considered too violent for most schools, but we learned both skills and social lessons during our recesses.

When I was growing up, it seemed like everybody’s grandparents died in their 60’s. For myself, of my four biological grandparents, only one of them, my maternal grandmother, lived past her 60’s. People in their 60’s had grey hair and dressed old. My hair has little grey and I wear skinny jeans, so it’s difficult to see myself as the old person that I associate with being 60.

I used to fear being seen as that old woman trying to act young. I’ve decided not to worry about that. I am going to be that old woman who is living my life to the fullest and loving every minute of it. If you feel like exploring the world, come join me.


What are your thoughts?