Only as Old as I Feel

Posted by mwallach on September 20, 2011 in My Kids |

Dear That’s Life,

It is safe to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my first Facebook birthday. When I used that term in conversation with a friend, her response was, “Your what?” Despite never having actually having heard anyone else say that before, I am convinced it is not original. I explained that it meant sharing my birthday with all of my Facebook friends, accepting every good wish and responding with thanks. It actually made the day a lot of fun and while I am confident social networking was not developed with the intent of spreading birthday cheer, it certainly brought me mine.

I woke each of my children that morning with a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday to Me!” should they have forgotten, even for a brief moment. Not the sentimental type, no cards are needed for my birthday, as they will readily end up in the garbage as I bemoan the trees that lost their lives. I appreciate more than anything else a morning without headache, yelling or crankiness as I rush weary children on the bus. That, coupled with numerous calls, emails, texts and Facebook filled with good wishes, is more than I could ask for as a birthday present. Anyone in charge of getting kids off to school when they would rather stay asleep under warm covers knows that a smooth morning routine is a gift that keeps on giving.

“Getting older is better than the alternative,” someone once said to me after I complained about the passing of time. This was not a birthday, however, which made me feel old or question where the time had gone. Instead, I wondered if I was becoming that woman who thinks she is really younger than she is and when my children decided they could share everything they were thinking. Neither situation was good.

Baking and talking on the phone never go hand in hand. While cooking is not a perfect science, baking is, requiring attention paid to detail and precision. In an effort not to get confused or miss a step, I got off the phone and decided to focus on the cake I was preparing. Having said under my breath that I really needed to pay attention to what I was doing, my daughter commented that I clearly was not a good multi-tasker. Taking that as a personal affront, and shooting her a glare, I decided to remind her that I have two master’s degrees, four jobs and six kids – none of whom have never once walked on to the bus without being dressed and fed. It seems, I argued, I was better at this than she thought. Once I put it that way, she agreed, and it became increasingly clear, especially after I shot her a death stare, that she wished she could retract her statement. I did not blame her – I have a good death stare.

I went for a haircut on my birthday. While I was there, someone asked me if I was turning 27. Only in my dreams, I said, wondering if this person was trying to be funny. When I told her my actual age, which is considerably older, she was stunned. “I thought you were much younger than that,” she said, a comment which I took as both a plus and a minus. I decided it was a compliment, however, determining to see it in a positive light, though it meant I had given birth to my eldest child while I was still wearing braces.

Nevertheless, when I got home, the cynical Wallach children saw it differently. One child asked if, at the time of the comment, I was about to give that person a tip. Someone else wondered if I was considering that person for a job, the compliment intended, therefore, to get on my good side. I squinted my eyes and snarled, since neither was the case. Almost like a public service, my children provide a reality check I did not know I needed.

Having recently purchased a dress for a bar mitzvah, I changed into it the morning of the event, which also coincided with my birthday festivities. I was particularly excited and had already tried it on while in the mall with my daughters. Unlike buying an item from the web or a catalogue, there are no surprises with the purchase you take home on the spot. You know what you’re getting, because it is in hand. The only difference here was that the dress I tried on in the store was a size too big. I needed a smaller size, and the right dress was found in another store, then shipped to my home address. When it arrived, however, it was smaller, but in more ways than one. While it fit better in the waist, it was also shorter and no longer a length I was accustomed to wearing. I wore it in the house for a few minutes, surveying the opinions of various family members, in hopes that maybe the dress was not as bad as I thought.

My gut instinct was immediately validated after I asked one child what she thought. After looking me over, it took very little time before she had formed an opinion. “Are you going to wear a skirt with that?” she said. Looking at her askance, I said that this was a dress, no skirt required. The look I gave was met by equally disbelieving eyes, followed by a quick, “You cannot wear that,” and a turn of the heels as she walked the other way, her word serving as law.

I then knocked on the door of another child to ask her opinion. Straight to the point, she looked at me and said, “Are you trying to look younger by wearing that?” I reminded her that she there when I tried on the original dress and seemed to have liked it, and no: I was not trying to look younger. Despite my birthday, I said, I felt just fine about my age, thank you very much. Unfortunately, it seems she did not like the dress even in the store, though neglected to say anything at the time. As I stood there in disbelief, she added one more comment. “And besides,” she said, “it is way too short.” It seemed the jury had returned with a unanimous verdict.

Resigned that the dress was a failure, and afraid I was becoming one of those women who denies her age by dressing in a manner more appropriate for a younger crowd, I walked back to my room to change, but not before passing one more critic along the way. When I asked him what he thought about my outfit, he smiled. “I like your shirt, Mommy,” he said. As I rolled my eyes and began to close the door behind me, I heard that voice scream one more thing. “And happy birthday, Mommy!” he shouted. “You’re still young.”
MLW
As Seen in the South Shore Standard 2011

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