Thursday, February 18, 2016

Oh The Let Down of Turning Twelve



I don't remember the exact day or year, but I remember the feeling when my birthday was no longer a big deal. I tried to stretch out that specialness for a long time, but meehhh, the inevitable caught up, rapped loudly, and busted down that door.

Oh, there were watershed decades (turning 30, 40), when it was a big deal...like when I turned 50. Tony and I picked out and brought home a new surf kayak with a formidable bow that cut through the waves like Odysseus on the Ionian  sea.  I paddled hard that week to defy the old age that kept on charging like the ancient warrior in search of Ithaca.

So imagine my sadness when the-day-before-turning-twelve, Max had the same melancholy feeling: Oh how he worried his birthday might not have the same charm as the birthdays in the years before. And he was only turning twelve years old. Much too soon. Much too young for birthday lamentations.

Like a good family, we rallied to help delay the truth about birthdays. We sang happy birthday a multitude of times, included him in the pickle ball match; everyone even gave into the demands from his mother: "No one is allowed to take a snitch from his cake until the official cutting." Even grandpa complied.

I continually reminded him of his unique birthday circumstances: "Max, you'll never again be swimming in the ocean, in Chacala, with your grandma on your twelfth birthday." Or, you'll never be surrounded by everyone who loves you so much, at this place, at this time."

Did it work?

Only Max knows if he weathered it through his new-age disappointment. Try as we might, we couldn't keep him from the companion of age: responsibility. For now on he would be responsible for his own attitude, his own happiness, his own engagement with the world. It triggers a little sadness at first, and one could think of it as a loss from childhood innocence and grace, but what could be better than gaining responsibility for one's own joy?

Now, I just have to figure out the joy I'll be gaining from advancing one more year into the fifties.

Perhaps Max will have some advice.