I was sitting at my desk at work last week when my mom called — not something she does often during the day. I answered it.
“I CANNOT believe you are 37-years-old,” my mom said ecstatically over the cellphone receiver.
“Um, thanks?” I replied.
“I meant, ’Happy birthday!,” my mom tried to correct herself. “I just can’t believe you are that old.”
“Thaaaanks....” I told her.
“No, it’s just the fact that you are that old makes me feel old,” my mom replied.
We try to make birthdays a big deal in our house. But since my son was born seven years ago this month — three days after I turned 30 — my birthday has been only but a prelude to our son’s big day. And I’m perfectly happy with that.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve had moments where I forget my own age. While filling out paperwork , I’ll forget — am I still 35? Or 36? While browsing Facebook, I’ll see pictures of friends from high school, people I haven’t seen in years. I’ll think to myself, “Wow, he looks rough” or “She looks so much like her mom used to ...” until I look in the mirror and realize that I am also closer to 40 than 30.
It’s an age where dropping weight is suddenly a lot harder than is used to be, even when you work out every day for the first time in your life. (That’s another column in itself.) It’s a time when, while you swore you would never inject toxins into your face, Botox really doesn’t seem like that bad of an idea anymore. It’s an age where you go into a store to try on some trendy clothes only to discover that the skirts or either way too short, the shirts are way too tight or you realize that you’ve reached an age where it just doesn’t work to dress in the same section as a 21-year-old.
It’s the late 30’s conundrum.
I look in the mirror and start seeing the sagging neck skin that I’m destined to have, as my mother inherited from my grandmother and she likely inherited from her mother. I see the crows feet inching themselves out from my eyes, the drooping eyelids I got from my dad — which he ended up having plastic surgery to correct. I see the grays that are taking root all over my head as a constant reminder that I need to see my hairstylist. (Yes, there are a few reasons why I’ve had the same column headshot photo since 2012.)
But then, these things also serve as a reminder of how far I’ve come. I look at bruises on my legs that I got last weekend while putting up my 3-year-old’s crib for the last time and am reminded that we raised three, growing babies in that bed. I look at the scars that stretch marks left, scrawled across my lower stomach, and see it as a reminder of the fact that I’ve brought three pretty great kids into this world. And as I count the grays on my head — getting too many to count, these days — I try to see it as a way to be grateful for the fact that I have grays. There was a time, after I was diagnosed with melanoma, when I feared how long I might be around.
On my birthday last week, I came home from work to a dining room decorated with a homemade banner made by my 9-year-old, draping from our chandelier to our kitchen doorway that said “Happy Birthday to Mommy.” My husband made dinner, low country boil, one of my favorites, and my kids relished in singing happy birthday to me, even though we couldn’t find a lighter for the candle.
I pretended to blow out a flame anyways.
No, 37 is not 27, it’s not 21 or 18. But, if I were those ages, I wouldn’t have my family, and I wouldn’t give that up for anything.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at email@example.com.