Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On Growing Old

I have been looking at myself lately.  This has never happened before, except for
the blessed times I've been pregnant.  It was a pleasure and a thrill to stand
in front of the mirror, sideways, to see if my seven week baby bump was noticeable.
Had anyone guessed my secret yet?  That my body was busy, busy, busy building
a little human from nothing but a miniscule seed and egg and hopes and dreams and love?
And, long after any guess work was involved, I would run my hands over the huge mountain
of a belly, feeling the elbows and heels with my fingers.  Fascinating, to see the results of
life in the making.

No, this has never happened before.  Secure in a husband's desire, there's never been the worry of
ugliness or fault.  I have never cared all that much, beyond the teenage vanity
of years ago.  Was I too fat?  Too skinny?  Did I curve right?  Life took over, and frankly, beyond the
daily shower there hasn't been time for fussing over wrinkles or flabby thighs.

But the last few months have brought changes.  My twenties - long over.  I am swiftly approaching
35, when I officially become an obstetric old lady, half way to my allotted three score and ten.  Only
3 years until I am midlife.  Tic. Tic.  Tic.

And, so, I have looked at myself lately.  Not critically, as I am not really preoccupied with
generic sexiness and sculpted bodies.  Every woman is desirable, if only for the right lover.  I have
mine, and there is great thankfulness in this.  No, not critically.  More...curiously.  It began with a few strands of silver hair, right at my temple where my hair parts.  I loved them immediately.  They lent my face a wisdom, a dignity, a respectability of sorts.  Their placement was a bonus.  I felt I had graduated to the experienced, wise-woman status.  Quickly, they have been joined by more silver.

In the mirror as I bent closer to confirm, yes, more silver, I noticed my face is not as smooth as it was even a year ago.  Tiny lines by my mouth, a faint furrow between my brows.  Have I frowned more lately?  I tried a little upset face...the furrow matched, the wrinkles not.  Maybe I had smiled more.  Yes, those lines matched when my lips curved upward.  And, is it any wonder?  We weathered the hardest year of our married life these past dozen months.  My face.  A reflection of my life.  A reflection of my husband.  The pain and worry and stress of debilitating pain.  The horrible strain on our marriage.  The hope of surgery.  The relief that it helped.  The joy of holding hands and walking - walking! - together through a parking lot.  The happy tears of witnessing our toddler in his lap, without having to push her off because of the incredible pain. It's there.  My face, a history.

And down, lower, my body has been altered by years and babies and circumstance.  The breasts that fed our babies, all four of them, literally keeping them alive and thriving.  How different they are from the beginning of my adulthood.  From one trick pony, to jack of all trades.  They were and are food for hungry bellies, comfort for bumps and bruises, a soft spot for tired heads at the perfect level for me to dip my head and bury my face in the tendrils smelling of baby soft loveliness.

I have looked at myself lately.  I have run my hands over my belly, turned sideways in the mirror, and wondered.  Does anyone know?  When they see me at the market, my belly a slight bulge, do they know that I have carried my son and three daughters within me?  That I have grown them in the secret of my body, that there they were safe, warm, and loved?  That the stripes shining on my skin are witness to the hugeness of my belly after ten moons, as huge as the love and responsibility of my commitment to my little ones?  Never will my muscles and skin return to their 'normal', rippled muscles and bikini-ready.  Never will my heart go back to those times, either, abandoning these last 10 years.  I have run my fingers over my scar, from where my daughter was lifted screaming with her fist pumped over her head.  I cried hot tears over that battle scar, only to have that river of grief lead me to a safe port of thankfulness.  It's there, a faint white line, and bears testimony to the birth of a newborn baby, a newborn mother.

When I was very young I imagined myself a grandmother.  I imagined the apron, making cookies with my grandchildren.  I saw them snuggled up, pages turning on the couch.  I imagined the comfortable, easy smiles and silly dances that have no room for vanity.  I imagined the garden, barefoot, eating peas fresh from the pods and teaching the children of my children what my mother had taught me.  And it looked like this.  It looked like dirt handprints on jeans.  It was like flour on rounded cheeks.  It was a lap big enough for two or three, soft with no sharp.  It was a little finger tip tracing the crinkles of my laughter just before naptime sleep.

Beautifully, wonderfully made.  My body as a testament of life lived well.


Four Girls said...

Oh Emilie...Thank you for this.

- Millie

Four Girls said...

You are wonderful and beautiful.