Something puzzles P.U. and Nice.
You got kids?, they ask me.
What do you think? You’ve been at my house millions of times.
They think it over for a second.
I have a fish, I say finally, breaking the silence.
No, they both shake their head, a fish isn’t really a kid.
Then after another moment, they look at me, and add:
But you’re the age of a mommy. What did you do with your kids?
They can’t understand, that despite “being the age of a mommy,” I don’t have any kids. In their mind, when you are the age of a mommy, you have kids.
When you are a little kid, age is a big thing. You’re proud of your age. I’m four and three-quarters, you might say, thrilled to be getting bigger, and five seems like a magical world you can’t wait to get to. Those are the big kids. They’re in a different class, maybe even a different school. That age difference, even one or two years, is like a whole ‘nother country. And, when you are a little kid, it is. And, as a little kid, you just assume your life will progress in a certain rhythm, that life is like school, where everyone in the same class loses their teeth at the same time. But, the older you get, the more life experiences seem to edge out chronological age as the dividing factor. If you’re going through a divorce and newly single, suddenly your circle changes; you’re spending more time with your single friends. A new baby, whether you are thirty-something or forty-something, finds you making friends with people whose kids are the same age as yours, but who may not be the same age as you. There are no mile markers for life. Some people do everything at the right time, married at twenty-eight, kids at thirty. And some people mix it up. They have kids later, or earlier; one career stops, another begins.
And so I find myself, sitting in a college classroom filled with people more than a decade younger than me. But, since we’re all here to learn the same thing, does it matter? Nobody gives you a pop quiz at the end of life; you’re the only one who can mark your life pass or fail. It’s midterms; how are you doing?
I sometimes wonder what the world would be like if the age we were on the outside was the same age as the one we felt on the inside. Would we all be four…or forty? Or would we morph ages, twenty in one situation, sixty in another, the way Alice grows and shrinks in Wonderland?