What Does It Mean To Be How Old?

Young children are very definite about age. Once they know how to tell you they will often say proudly, “I’m four and a half,” or “I’m almost eleven.” They are eager to be as old as they can for however old they are. As we age we tend not to think in terms of fractions of years, and as we get older still we may even begin to fudge about the accumulation. One reason for this might be our expectations of what it is to be how old.

At an open mic I attended recently a man recited a humorous poem about turning sixty. It got me to thinking about age, and how at different times in my life I have had such different opinions about it. How old I am seems to have an influence on what I think about the number of years a person has lived. Then I recalled a conversation I had with a friend when we were both in our late twenties and had to laugh.

“I hope I look as good as she does when I’m that old,” I said. The person in question was in her very early fifties and at that time in my life she seemed to me to be positively ancient. My friend laughed and said, “You may feel differently one day.” Of course she was correct. I didn’t think much about age at the time except that to me anyone over forty must be getting on in years.

Time went by and the years I was accumulating took on more significance. I also discovered the various prejudices associated with any particular age. When I was in my fifties I thought people in their seventies or eighties were well–old. Now the more years I add on the more find myself revising my opinion of how old is old. It seems to me that judgments concerning one’s years are definitely a relative proposition.

When I was a seventeen year old high school graduate going off to college I thought and felt myself to be “all grown up.” When I married and had two children before I was twenty I felt very mature indeed. Today the idea of my eighteen year old granddaughter getting married and having children seems positively laughable. Yet no one at that time no one thought too much about it. Recently I was watching a movie made in the thirties; a white haired, obviously elderly woman with a cane proudly proclaimed herself in a shaky voice to be, “Eighty three years old.” Today eighty anything often looks nothing like that.

The world has greatly changed in this respect. People live far longer and in much better health than they did eighty years ago. When my grandmother died at what seemed the ripe old age of eighty that seemed quite appropriate. Now I have a friend older than she was and she seems far younger. When people ask me how old I am, I tell them I am ageless. I no longer have expectations concerning age. They interfere both with my own and with others’ observations about me. How old is old? I have no idea.


Mama and her birthday cake

Easter is a Feast of Joy

Image         About two months before Easter chocolate bunnies wrapped in gold foil begin to appear in the stores alongside Passover coins and other items relating to these two great annual spring festivals. Slowly but surely a variety of items crowd the shelves: yellow marshmallow baby chicks and rabbits, egg dying kits, and more. As the time grows closer to the holidays, beside the glorious smelling hyacinths in the market, fragrant lilies bloom.

For me as a young child Easter was always more about flowers and the occasional candy treats it would provide. My dad’s corsages for my mother and me were a big part of my joy in the holiday. I also loved it that we got to go to my dad’s church as well as my mom’s because I enjoyed singing the hymns and was given a plant to take home. As I recall it was usually a potted geranium. Hats were important too, and nice clothes–perhaps even new ones.

As the time for celebration approaches, shoppers carry away the flowers displayed on supermarket tables. Parents make up baskets with candy eggs and other tasty treats for their children. Meanwhile, Passover foods go home to pantry shelves. Like Christmas and Hanukah, Easter and Passover are celebrated primarily with special foods that pronounce the symbolism of the season. However, both of these spring feasts are rich with family centered celebrations unrelated to a focus on commercialism or gift giving.

Easter and Passover are different from each other, yet both tell a story that is important to the traditions of Christian and Jewish peoples. Both are joyous and raise the spirits of those who celebrate. This season of joy even blooms in the hearts of those who do not celebrate it religiously. The flowers and the candy, the candles and the rituals call out to the traditions that go back more than two thousand years. There is a kind of memory that is built into our brains and resonates to these symbols, increasing the feast of our celebration.

My mother did not usually cook for us on Easter. Either my great aunt or my grandmother did the honors. I remember roast beef with Yorkshire pudding, or turkey or ham, and all the wonderful foods that went with them. Mostly, though we got to go to the family feasts where I might be given a small Easter basket and was usually the only child present.

Once primitive people rejoiced at the coming of a time when trees blossomed and green herbs provided a variety to the stored, dried foods they had subsisted on through the cold months of winter. Imagine what it must have been like to make a salad or pick wild greens to fill mouths weary of winter fare. Now though we can enjoy fresh vegetables and meats all year round we have special foods to provide a feast that not only rejoices the heart but also reminds us that we honor the great traditions of faith that have for so long fed and sustained us.

Summer Solstice

From high in the sky
sun sinks slowly,
lengthening afternoons and evenings.
Time seems suspended.
Children’s days are long
and full of freedom.
For me, the dwindling has begun.
In ripening fruit
in scent of sun warmed grasses
in insect choruses
the beginning of the end sings

Tasha HalpertImage

Springing Open

Brilliant forsythia fingers

fling their exuberance

into the bright blue air.

Red budding twigs

holler “here I am, shine on me.”

Forsythia sunshine

fills my eyes, Maple flowers

jingle, “Welcome pollinating friends.”

Spring buds open everywhere

blossoming their way into summer.

By Tasha Halpert