“When did that happen?”
“You’re going silver….” My son was frowning as he focussed on my hair in the winter sunlight as we watched the fish in the pond. I didn’t like to mention that I wasn’t the only one. There is white at this son’s temples and the younger one has already lost a fair bit of his hair.
Even so, the conversation took me back to a night when I was a young newlywed. We had been out with friends and had gathered for coffee at the end of the evening, and I, as usual, was sitting on the floor.
“Your hair’s almost white! When did that happen?” Kenny, sitting on the chair behind me, had been shocked. His wife had laughed at him and moved the lamp… the ‘white’ was just the sheen on my hair catching the light.
Life moves so fast. Memories that are still fresh suddenly seem to be decades old and, while I really do not mind growing older, it still seems odd, somehow, to think I will never be young again. ‘Young’ is an integral part of who I am, and ‘old’, for now at least, is something I am learning to grow into. Both are part of me and I wouldn’t change that if I could.
We are constantly readjusting, both how we see ourselves and how we see the image the world mirrors back at us. It is only a matter of perspective and perception after all. To some, I am still young. To others, I am already old. I remember my own mother being positively ancient to me when she hit thirty… which now seems far too young for her to have had a teenage daughter.
What others see on the outside… like the illusion of silver cast by the lamp… may be no more than their perception and may not be anything like the reality of what is inside. And I have to wonder about this whole youth and age thing anyway. We start off being ‘too young’, wanting to be older…until youth becomes a desirable asset, one to which we are encouraged to cling on to for as long as possible. We age regardless, until, instead of being ‘nowhere near’ that big birthday, to proudly announcing we are almost a grand old age.
Our lives are chopped into pieces by our perception of age and its relative value in society, yet every age, every moment of our lives is actually part of a single, natural process; we are alive. We tend to overlook the fact that it is a process, and that therefore every step is necessary and of equal value, from the first to the last.
There is that famous saying that ‘life is like a box of chocolates’, but in this case, I am not so sure that it sends the right message. Keep eating the things and not only will you get fat but the box will soon be empty, apart, perhaps, from that last one that nobody wants. At some point, you will reach for another and find they have all gone. That process can only end in disappointment.
Maybe life should be more like a rich wedding cake… carefully prepared from the best ingredients, slowly cooked and matured, decorated with beauty, sweetness and imagination, and the process not finished until the joyful celebration is over and every last crumb has been shared, leaving behind nothing but fond memories. I think I’d rather be a cake.