The kindergarten boy has been struggling to find sleep before ten o’clock these days. He tells me he can’t stop dreaming, and I tell him to turn his daydreams into the sleeping kind, and then he lies there for another hour with his wide-awake reveries.
Lately, this little dreamer has been making routine comments about his mama becoming an old lady. Several days ago there was this:
“Mama, you’re almost 33!”
“Yes. Just a few more months.”
“Well, I will make sure to check for any gray hairs growing on your head.”
I laughed heartily, but he was gravely serious.
I wish that I could morph into his five-and-a-half-year-old brain for several long moments, and view the exact thoughts that are unfolding. The whimsical, the unrealistic, and the wonder-filled; perhaps the very thoughts that my own brain dreamed up, just 27 years ago. Instead, I’m left filling in the gaps. Tonight, as I stood next to his top bunk, holding his hand and encouraging the sleeping kind of dreams, we had the sweetest, hardest talk.
“Mama, are you standing on the bottom bunk?”
“Nope. My feet are flat on the floor.”
Silence.….then, “What if I was that tall?”
“Well, you will be. One day.”
<Moments of thoughtful quiet from the dreamer.>
“Mama? When I am that tall, can I still kiss you?”
“But can I still sit on your lap?” His throat is closing, threatening tears for both of us. He can barely get his questions out without crying, and I can barely respond.
“But can we still rub our noses together?”
I could scarcely say the word. Always. Because I know that there will come a day when he will not want our noses to kiss like Eskimos. Somehow, I found my voice, leaving the tears behind my eyes and reassured him that we could do all of those things forever; that even when he’s taller than a bunk bed and I’m an old lady, we would still just be a mama and her boy giving nosey kisses. He gave me his cheesiest, sweetest smile, and then I walked out of the room and freed my captive tears.
I’m not sure what is sparking my little dreamer’s thoughts on aging. Maybe it’s the visits to our 99 year old next-door neighbor. Maybe it’s the books we’ve been reading. Maybe it’s the talks about eternity, because he asks and asks all the questions. Likely, it’s a combination.
A few nights ago, as I sat next to our gorgeous, wrinkled-thin neighbor on her couch, I was very aware of the little eyes staring at us from the chair just ten feet away. When I glanced at the dreamer he was an unblinking statue, intent on memorizing the 99 years that had found themselves all wrapped up in a human. I wanted to peer into his mind and see the etchings that were being marked there. I can tell that my boy secretly adores her. I can also tell that he is petrified by her fragility and her other-worldly, timeless elegance. And I suppose, if I am honest, I share the entirety of his feelings.
Like the dreamer, I, too, have musings on aging. I look in the mirror. I see lines that may or may not have been in that exact spot yesterday. I see photos from three short years ago, and I just can’t put my finger on the difference I see between the me in the mirror and the me in the photo. …..Wait. Oh. Sharp inhale. I looked so….young. Three years ago.
I’d like to tell you that I am completely and gracefully accepting my fresh, baby wrinkles. I’m not, friend. Aging is so weird. On one hand, I am so enthusiastically excited to have the wisdom that comes with each decade. On the other, I want to make it stop at once. More than the freaky things that happen to the withering body, I want to hold all of these right now moments with my tiny people in my palms and make the wildly spinning earth STOP. And then I remember the words I’ve told the dreamer so many times. An echo of the words C.S. Lewis spoke. Again and again, I remind myself: This is not our true home. This is merely a shadow of what real life will be. Bring on the wrinkles.