Twenty-four years ago today, an Amish woman forced me into her assistant’s boxy van for a ride on snowy country roads. I was clad in my purple plaid flannel nightgown with a coat hastily thrown over it.. At one point, a sheriff pulled the van over, inquiring why it was doddering along the county highway at low speed. The details were lost to me in the midst of a contraction, for the van ride had its desired effect. My labor kick-started into gear. Who needs pitocin anyway?
I begged to go home, desperate to climb back into the hot birthing tub set up in my bedroom. (Not that the baby came right away after that ride, but the midwives were assured that he was indeed, on the way.)
I labored for a solid forty-three hours, most of it slow and steady. My Amish midwife was six months pregnant herself, a petite woman with strong hands and a quiet manner. Her assistant, the “English” (non-Amish) midwife with a long braid down her back, brought along her own three month old baby and one of her teenagers to help watch the baby. My baby was in no hurry but finally, he appeared at almost eleven that night, twenty-four years ago.
Strange how a birthday really belongs to two people–the one who gave birth and the one who was born. So today, on our shared day, I cobbled together a little celebration. I bought balloons and my husband bought birthday cards. I wrapped a gift and trekked into town to buy the requested ice cream cake. I stopped by Red Lobster to ask how long the wait would be at 6 PM since they don’t take reservations. And then the manager made a reservation for me, telling me, “Shhh, don’t tell.” (Last year we had to wait over an hour.) I blew up balloons and now we wait for the birthday boy to return from work so we can have celebratory cheddar biscuits and seafood.
Not long ago, I was thinking that my daughter has only known me as a woman older than thirty-eight. By the time she verbal enough to sass me, I was already forty-one years old. As I realized during the wild years, it’s all fun and games to have a baby when you are thirty-eight, but having a fifteen year old when you are fifty-three years old is a calamity. (If you have a certain type of fifteen year old.)
(My son was not that type of fifteen year old. He was a delight his whole life–and still is–and I mean that wholeheartedly.)
Anyway, what I was thinking a few weeks back is that I will quite likely not know my younger children as fifty-seven year olds. (I am fifty-seven now. I am stunned by this turn of events. Am I old?)
When my youngest son is fifty-seven, I will be ninety.
When my daughter is fifty-seven, I will be ninety-five.
I hope I’m alive to see what kind of fifty-seven year olds they will be. How will their lives have turned out? Will I be a grandmother?
Will they do the math and realize that when I was fifty-seven, they thought I was both old and immortal? I never gave a second thought to my parents’ mortality until my dad had the gall to die when he was only forty-seven.
I was twenty-four then.
And so it goes. Turn around and find yourself back where you began.