Wednesday, December 23, 2009

December and Time

by Julia Buckley
Forty-five years ago this month my mother gave birth to me. There we are--my mother a glamorous 1960s gal, and me a little bundle in footy pajamas. (Yes, my mother dressed up around the house. Look at those stockings! I wonder if my children will reminisce about my sweats? Or on special occasions, sweats with a racing stripe?)

I was my mother's fifth and last child. My siblings suggest that I was babied all my life, although I never felt that I was. (That will have to be a whole other post--birth order and psychology, or some such thing).

I can't say that babyhood feels like just yesterday. Yet it also feels odd to be an almost 45-year-old person, simply because when you're twenty and thirty, you never think you'll be 45. A similar illusion to thinking you'll never die, I suppose.

30 years after I was born, on this very day in December, I had my first child. As you can see, he was a sweet little fellow, and he still is, under the standard teen veneer of sarcasm and know-it-allness. I asked him how he would like to celebrate his 15th birthday. He is already immersed in one of his early presents: a mini laptop--a no-frills affair that his mom got on sale--which will probably now become the center of his universe. He shrugged and said that he'd like a couple more things to open, and he'd like to go out for dinner. This I can handle. Yet it seems there should be something more to herald this occasion--trumpets or fireworks or something. My baby is fifteen, and before I know it he'll be in college.

I remember my mother having similar moments of prescience. I would catch her, back when I was in high school, watching me as I ate my bowl of cereal, or studying me when I overslept in the morning. "What?" I'd say irritably.

"You look like an angel when you sleep," she'd say.

"Yuck. I drool, and my mouth hangs open."

My mother would sigh, (as I sigh now when my son claims that everything is boring or dumb. "Boring as balls," is his favorite simile, but apparently balls are metaphorically flexible, because his last English test was "as easy as balls." Whatever that means. Mostly he just wants to say "balls.")

"You used to be such a sunshiney person," she would say. What she didn't say was that she hadn't recovered from me hitting the teen years and becoming Dorothy Parker overnight.

"I'm still sunshiney," I told her. "Underneath."

We made it through the teen years, my mother and I, and she considers me sunshiney once again. Now our biggest problem is distance, and her yearning for the time when her children were all around her. I can already feel the pangs of that future fate. It's not so evident yet, except in my son's growing social life--his private phone calls and his not-so-subtle clicking out of Facebook if I happen to wander into the room. (Not that I can't see what he was typing--I am his Facebook friend, after all). :)

Every December brings a revelation--my son becomes a year older, I become a year older, and we move farther and farther from my mother's youth, my youth, the snows of yesteryear. I love December for the celebrations it brings, but December is a reminder, as well, of time's relentless passage.

Still, it is beautiful to me, because it binds my son and me together--the month of our birthdays, always 30 years apart. It will be easy for him to remember no matter what age I am, I tell him. Easy as balls. :)

Happy Birthday to my son Ian, and Merry Christmas to you all!


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Julia, what a lovely and touching post. You always write such beautiful things about your family. Happy Birthday to you and your son. Monday was my birthday, but unfortunately I've long sailed past 45. Who knew we'd get this old this fast?!

jbstanley said...

What a wonderful way to begin the day by reading this warm and cozy post. I love the photos! Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday to you and to Ian. This is truly a magical month in your family!

Mason Canyon said...

Loved the story, Julia. Happy birthday to you and your son, and many more. Time does fly by and we don't realize it until we reach that 40-plus mark. But, there's so much more to look forward to.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and your family.

Julia Buckley said...

Thanks, everyone! Sue Ann, Happy Birthday to you, too!

JB, thanks for the word "magical." I'll take it with me today to make me appreciative.

And Mason, thanks for that optimistic comment!

Jess Lourey said...

Julia, you should have your own column. Really. I feel like I was invited into a warm cocoon with you that made me a little melancholy and a little hopeful.

Hey, when do we start FEELING old? Not the aches and pains and wrinkles and sags, which are already starting, but that feeling of wisdom and that realization that we are no longer 30? My mom is 62 and it still hasn't hit her (she looks fantastic and recently earned her black belt in TKD), but when I was younger, it was so obvious how old the old people were.

Julia Buckley said...

Good question, Jess. I don't feel old, but I know my mom does (she's 75 and beautiful).

It truly is a matter of mind, I suppose, and how well one deals with changes, both physical and emotional.

And thanks for the compliment. :)

Alan Orloff said...

A very heart-warming post. And I must say, you look very much like your mother. (Hey, there's nothing wrong with sweats!)

Julia Buckley said...

It's funny, Alan. When we were kids, I thought none of us looked anything like our parents, or each other. But this is the gift of age: when I look in the mirror now, I see my mother's smile and my father's eyes.

And thanks for validating my sweats. :)

G.M. Malliet said...

What a charming post. Your photos made me realize I don't have a photo of my mother holding me, nor even one of those studio group family photos, and I would probably spend my last dollar to have such a thing now. I guess my parents didn't go in for that - what a mistake.

Everybody - rush out right now, get the camera, and gather everyone for a photo. It all goes by so fast. Someone offered to help me cross the street yesterday, so I'm officially really old. There was snow everywhere, but still...

p.s. Your son is just beautiful. All that hair!

Keith Raffel said...

Julia, easy to see where your good looks come from.

Cricket McRae said...

Happy Birthday to you both, Julia! Such a lovely post, beautifully written and with just a hint of bittersweetness. I laughed at your teen's predilection for "balls." After all, that's pretty much what I said when I turned 45 this year, too.

Julia Buckley said...

Keith, you flatterer. Keep that up. :)

GM, I know what you mean, and I value these pictures far more now than I once did.

Cricket, congrats on being 45! We should start a club.

signlady217 said...

Oh, girl, you made me cry! I'll be 45 in February and my brother turned 43 back in September, and my mom and I have been talking about the passage of time quite a lot lately. I've been married for 24 years, and she still crys when I leave her house or she leaves mine. We've been able to spend quite a bit of time together this year, and made some wonderful memories.

Have a wonderful Christmas everybody!

Beth Groundwater said...

I'm sitting here in my sweats, Julia, reading your post. :) My excuse is that I got off the exercise bike and ate lunch, and soon, very soon, I plan to hop in the shower. ;)

Your post reminded me of my own 19-year-old son's 15th birthday. That was the year when I think he grew a foot. It seemed every morning he'd wake up and the sink would be lower. He was gangly and awkward with his longer limbs. He's now an accomplished young man who towers over me and yes, he looks like an angel when he sleeps, even though he drools, and his mouth hangs open.

Happy holidays, everyone!

Julia Buckley said...

signlady, is it a sign of our age that we get so weepy? But I'm with you there--life is good, but it's sad sometimes. :)

Beth, I haven't seen a huge growth spurt yet, but he is tall, and his voice is deep. Plus he has hormonal spurts of anger which we all hope will pass soon. :0