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Over the Hill

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I stared at the chocolate cake, not sure whether to exhale or cry. Four decades couldn’t have flown by so fast. It simply wasn’t possible. Didn’t I graduate from high school just last June? But there on my birthday cake flickered the undeniable evidence: forty pink candles pooling into Ghirardelli puddles. Each candle shouted a unanimous chorus of: “Welcome to Middle Age!”


“Am I officially ‘over the hill’” now?” I later grumped to my husband, Chris. He celebrated my entre into “Middle Age” in dry-humored fashion with a bouquet of black roses. And truckloads of chocolate. My four boys combined their resources to buy forty mylar balloons. They meant well. It was the sight of FORTY “Over the Hill” balloons crammed into our living room that got me thinking: “Is it really all downhill from here?”


Perched up here in the Nose Bleed section, my view from “The Hill” is really pretty good. Considering the alternative, that is. And what part of The Hill I’m tackling: bottom, top, or far side. I’ve realized I must choose how to navigate this knoll—on hands and knees, sliding face-first, or traveling light. So I’ve made a decision. Before fielding any more snide remarks about “candles costing more than the cake,” I’ve decided to think of “forty something” like this: “Compared to a Bristlecone Pinetree, I’m just a wet-behind-the-ears whipper-snapper!”


It works pretty well. Except when I take my new attitude out for a “test drive” with my ten-year-old. He knows everything. Especially how ancient and archaic I am!


I didn’t mind so much until the other day when he pipes up with, “Hey mom, did they have cars when you were a little girl?”


Just how old does that kid think I AM?!


Not quite old enough to have reached full-blown senility I guess, as I immediately shot back, “Yeah, but we had to watch out for the dinosaurs.”


I felt pretty smug about that witticism. For about a day. Then he asks, “Mom, what’s a record album? How did you listen to anything without a CD player?” 


I didn’t even TRY explaining eight-tracks, black-and-white TV, or carbon paper. He’s still trying to figure out how anyone changed channels without a remote or made dinner sans microwave. 


I’ve also noticed that lopping five years off my age-o-meter works about as well as recalibrating the bathroom scale to disguise “Middle Age Spread.” I’ve decided those extra fifteen pounds are as permanent as they are pesky. So are the cumulative effects of gravity. Some days I’m convinced that even my freckles are drooping. 


Then there’s the bathroom mirror. Someone keeps chiseling lines all over my face every time I look at it. Well, that mirror was never much of a friend anyway. These days I just ignore it. Ditto the bottle of Moisturizer for Enriched A of  L’Oreal. I just stash it behind the maturing skin. (Can’t tell you how much I love THAT one!) And my eye glasses? Hey, I really don’t NEED those specs. Only when I want to see. 


Speaking of physical effects from The Hill, I’m still trying to figure out why my tennis racquet meets every service return and ground stroke in “super slo-mo.” I also suspect those tennis balls bounce faster and farther with each passing year. At least, that’s what my feet say. Er … holler. 


Same thing with power walking and jogging. The latter is an activity I’m rapidly relegating to the “used to” category. After thirty minutes of pounding the pavement these days, I discover joints and muscles I didn’t even know I had. Especially the next morning. Seems some parts of the ‘ole bod can’t be bothered to put in an appearance before I rate a sufficient number of candles on the cake!


While I can’t honestly reduce the number of cake candles, I’ve learned something else: When the years pile up they equal Aging. We groan about it, poke fun at it, try to hide it. But we can’t stop it.


You see, I can’t quite say “thirty-five” anymore without a severe conscience pang. Well OK, I can’t say “thirty-nine” without a twinge. When I mumble “forty-two,” at least I’m in the ballpark! Still, whether I’m giggling or guffawing up The Hill, I’m reminded with every step that candle costs could be a lot worse.  


I’ve also learned something else about Middle Age. The Hill offers a view of the horizon not always obvious to wet behind the ear whipper-snappers. Specifically, my perch in the Nose Bleed section helps me see that the same One who guided my footsteps Yesterday and orders them Today is blazing a trail for my Tomorrow. He’s planting sign posts along the way. They’re called “birthdays.” Each candle reminds me that every new laugh line, gray hair or drooping freckle means I’m another day closer to Home. And another reason to celebrate.


As for my intrepid husband, it’ll soon be his turn for the black balloons. I wonder if I can manage fifty of them without snickering myself silly?

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