Posted by: Erica | June 3, 2010

Dirty-Flirty-Thirties

Dirty–(from life)–in need of an emotional dusting-off, mentally cluttered, philosophically disorganized, soiled from trampling through the trenches of life.

Flirty–(with life)–having the confidence to approach life with passion, not willing to make it a love affair; I am in this world, but not of it.

30s–(of life)–decade of age I’m currently in, when zits and gray hair coexist, it’s too late to start all over, but too early to call it quits.

Now that I think about it, maybe something did change when I turned 30.  I know it wasn’t my usual birthday.  I woke up on that day in a girl’s dorm room at a Southern Baptist youth camp in Ridgecrest, North Carolina.  I was far away from home, friends, and any prospect of a cake.  Martin and I were there as leaders, and he was too busy keeping track of teenage boys to have much time for me.  After a few members of our group gave him a hard time for not planning a celebration in advance, he did end up getting me a few presents from the campus bookstore.  I still have the little silver bell with the North Carolina state flag on its handle.

But, as nice as my souvenir-shop presents turned out to be, that was not the highlight of my day.  That afternoon, feeling as though I needed to plunge into life a little deeper—or perhaps in a desperate attempt to hold onto youth—I agreed to do something I might otherwise have never done.  I signed up for the Ultimate Relay event at the camp’s field day festivities and went body-surfing.  For strategic purposes, the adult’s team decided that I should ride atop a battery of burly men so that they could guide me along toward the finish line with their might.  As it played out, the adrenaline-filled version of “guiding” became “shoving” and “hurling.”  And so, when I walked back to our church group bloodied, bruised, and blushing, one of our youth declared me, officially, “Dirty-Flirty-Thirty.”

The label stuck, and has even been tweaked to accommodate my aging.  (The next year, I became “thirty-one-derful” and last year I turned “thrity-two-rrific.”) But, I don’t think I really understood the deeper meaning of my mood that day, that moment’s decision, until perhaps recently.  I was changing, and the concept of getting older was changing for me as well.

Actually, let’s go back a little further to a couple of years prior, if you will.  I think birthdays took on new meaning for me when I became a mother.  Having a child and then witnessing how much they can grow and learn in a year’s time probably has that effect on every new mom.  Birthdays become more than parties and presents; they become about memories and milestones.  But, for me, there was another layer of significance.  Having Ansley when I did drew me into a close parallel to my own mother’s life.  She was 28 when she had me, her first child.  I, too, was 28 when I had Ansley.  There’s something special about this coincidence–knowing that for every stage that Ansley enters, I face it from a similar circumstance as to when my mother faced these transitions with me. It enables me to glean an intimate understanding of her life, as I’m now living it out in this way for myself.  This year, when Ansley turned 4 on March 24th, I knew that I was the same age as my mother when I turned 4.  For every emotion I feel in regard to my life at this point, whether it be the strong bonds I’m forming with my daughter, or my struggle to forge an identity beyond the seemingly all-encompassing “mom,”  I imagine she felt them too.    We have viewed our children, dealt with motherhood from a common perspective.

Because of this, Ansley’s birthday is about even more than early childhood milestones, it is about my own as well.  I am my mother’s child, and I am growing and learning, still.  Now, every time a birthday rolls around, either hers or mine, or my mother’s, I can’t help but experience intense reflection on the cycle of life, how we are all connected, us mothers, us women.  And I examine how the choices we’ve made and the ways we’ve lived our lives have affected each other.

So, on March 24th, when my little girl turned four, I found myself sitting at work thinking about these things, trying to figure out just what kind of mother I wanted to be.  I thought about what I wanted to gain from my mother’s example, or ways that I wanted to be different.  And I realized that when thinking about my mother’s life, I never wish that she’d have spent more time with me.  Instead, my regret is that she hadn’t lived more of her life for herself.  I think about all the things I wish she’d have had the opportunity to do, and some things that she did have the opportunity to do and didn’t.

And this may seem a selfish thing, believe me, I’m the first to think it is, but this is not the kind of sacrificial legacy I want to leave.  Not that I think that my mother has–she lived a full life, it just ended way too short.  But, having studied a life after its completion, I know I don’t want to live a long life that wasn’t lived to the fullest.  I don’t want to be a martyr, I want to be a mother.  I don’t want to merely sit on the sidelines and cheerlead while Ansley runs the good race of her life.  Instead, I’d rather be running the lap before her, ready to pass on the baton and then be better able to coach her through the pace, having had experience with the task before her.  It seems to me like she’d have a better chance at going further.  And, just maybe, that will have an impact on how my grandchildren live their lives, as well.

March 24th of this year was another birthday of sorts–it happened to be the opening day for previews of Green Day’s “American Idiot” on Broadway.  The headlines were right there on my computer screen.  The irony was too much to ignore.  I picked up the phone and purchased two tickets for the showing on my birthday, June 5th.

As I sit here making these final edits to this post, I am aboard an Amtrak train heading toward New York City.  It is a full-speed ahead type of ride for this girl of rural roots, brought up in the slow-paced life of south-central Kentucky.  I can hardly hold back tears as I type.  The reality of my past, the hopes for my future, each mile of track puts one further behind me as the other surges ever closer.  In this life, there is little time for fear.  And so, despite my extreme phobia regarding heights, tonight I will look out on the world from the top of the Empire State Building.  And, regardless of the anxiety I feel in crowds of people, on Saturday I will be in Times Square when the ball drops on another year of my life. I somehow feel I must be there–that it is important for me to immerse myself in the vastness, the cold, unfamiliarity of masses–that is important for me to see what a punk-rock opera has to say about what our youth are experiencing.

I am ready.  I am ready to know the world in a new way.  To study it for what it is, to gain knowledge I can construct into wisdom.  To pass my experiences down.  To hand off the baton and be able to say that I ran, or that I body-surfed.  Or that I understand why you are disillusioned with all this worldliness, but that I know One who has overcome.   Thirty-thr-illing, I am ready.

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Responses

  1. Wow! That’s is so awesome that you are in NY! I’ve always wanted to go to a Broadway show. And you are seeing “American Idiot”! I am so jealous–I can’t wait to hear all about it! Enjoy life and enjoy this trip–sound’s like there will be more like this in your future! 🙂


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