Birthday uncovers choice between planning for future, seizing day

“It’s kind of a big one,” I tell the kids about turning 40.

“Like when I turned 5,” Rosie says knowingly.

“Exactly.”

“But why is it so big?” Col wants to know.

“It’s because of the decades,” I tell them. This is a new word for them. “It means 10 years – it’s like counting by dimes.”

“You’re four dimes old!” Col shrieks. Okay, that sounds more digestible.

I don’t know how it is that turning 40 is both a crazy big deal and also just another day. I mean, if I’m lucky, it’s just another day. Like today where the kids slept past 6:30 and I crept out of bed and made the quietest cup of coffee.

Ten minutes later, I hear someone squeak awake and find Rose on the toilet in her pink “sophisticat” shirt, bewildered face, blinking at the light. I throw my arms around her olive-skinned softness and kiss her eyelids, grateful to see her in a way that surprises me.

“I’m peeing, Mama,” she tells me.

“That’s OK, honey.”

I carry Rose into the living room and kiss her a hundred more times. Col rises and lunges for us on the couch, missile-like, all bones and hard edges.

The kids argue about who’s getting the most mama-space and I realize that even at 5 and 7, they need to be tucked in the envelope of my limbs regularly. Especially first thing in the morning.

Outside, the chickens screech brrrraaaaaaacck, and hundreds of edible plants are roused by the sun. The lettuce is spellbindingly lovely in its red and green ruffles, reminding me of something you’d find in Rose’s dress-up box. The slugs eat my cucumber seedlings, and every day we feed at least 20 slugs to the chickens, whose eggs we eat, so it all sort of evens out.

My husband is mixing batter for waffles, this husband who’s known me almost 17 years, who loves me so well it sometimes makes me cry.

The thing about 40 is, if I’m lucky and I get 80 good years, then I’m starting the second half of my life. Sometimes, this startling truth makes me want to strive harder, to shake that book I’ve been wanting to write out of my head once and for all, to push myself to just do it.

Other times, I think about starting the second half of my life, and I want to forego all striving for anything (including my pre-pregnancy body), and devote my life simply to living well in the moment (which, strangely, often involves a dream of buying a van, quitting our jobs and hitting the road with the family).

Surely, the answer lies somewhere between – that middle path between planning for the future and seizing the day. Today, it’s just another day with deadlines and slug-hunting and celebrating the gift of waking up to this lovely life.

Reach Rachel Turiel at sanjuandrive@frontier.net.Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.

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