Boogie Shoes and Boat Paddles
Today we’re hosting a little Throwback Tuesday on the blog (I know that’s not really a thing; work with me, friend…). With an article I wrote for She Magazine six years ago…for their Celebrate Your Age issue.
I think it’s my favorite.
Lots of life has happened since then. Not all of it pleasant. By the time you’ve lived forty-two years on this spinning ball, there’s bound to have been some trips around the sun that have left you dizzy, dusty, and flat on your butt.
At least, that’s been the case for me.
I could definitely add more stops to this piece…and maybe I will at some point….but as for now, I can still echo its closing sentiments. Six years later.
All of this talk about age has me headed for the hills to reflect and ponder and ruminate and cogitate (one can never have too many synonyms, huh?). I’m going to my reflection place – my mental destination for reflecting. It’s a lot like my happy place. Well, truth be told, they are the same place; I am just reflective AND happy there. I digress.
As the wind tousles my hair (the ceiling fan greatly assists this effect) and the noonday brilliance knocks the chill off the breeze, the sun stands behind me and my back is perfectly warmed – compelling goose bumps to stand at attention on my arms.
The sky is cloudless, revealing a rich blue that is rarely replicated in nature.
There is no noise.
No other people.
I am the population of my happy place.
The lake perfectly mirrors the flourishing hills that surround it. The dock is rocked ever so gently by the movement of the still water. It is a place of solitude. It’s here that I can revisit the shores of my past and stake my claim to my current season.
I launch and paddle intermittently – gliding more than working. I steer in a general direction – unable to see my first stop. It is across the lake – the farthest distance from the dock, but time is easy here – smooth and fluid and painless.
I hear it before I see it and excitement bubbles in my tummy. It’s my fifth or sixth birthday, and I am dancing like nobody’s business.
A campground borders the seam of the land and the lake, and festivities are well underway. I am sixteen minutes shy of sharing my birthday with Independence Day, so the camp residents are in full celebration.
I’m pretty sure that I know the party isn’t for me, but it feels like good times all the same.
The band cranks up, and my insides get the jitters. At the encouragement of my family, I go out to dance with an aunt or some cousins. And if the party wasn’t for me before I started dancing, it is after those folks see my moves. They cheer and clap for me, and I dance in my bare feet for hours, unwilling to stop – covered in dust and sweat. It was my first dance.
I slip back into the boat with dirt creases in my elbows and knees and paddle to my next stop. Once I make land and tie up, I find myself bedecked in cap and gown, preparing to speak at my high school graduation – a few weeks before my eighteenth birthday. It is indeed a time for reflection and anticipation.
As I articulate in my speech, I have observed a remarkable phenomenon at work within my class. The tumultuous times of adolescence have bowed and submitted to the fear of the future; drama is deflated and uncertain days lie ahead.
I am blinded by the beam of the stadium lights, and the echo of my voice makes my delivery awkwardly timed, but I savor the memory. It was my time to be heard.
I find the gown a little too cumbersome for paddling and the tassel from the cap keeps tickling my nose, so I stow them away under my seat. While studying the soft ripples of my interruptions, I quickly arrive at my twenty-fourth birthday.
I’m seated for dinner at a swanky restaurant – feeling quite out of place and anxious – enjoying the experience and loathing it all at once. I unceasingly ask Chris about silverware and etiquette and how to order, for Pete’s sake. At this restaurant – on this day – dessert comes with a proposal on the side. Oh my, it was my turn to be loved.
With some bling on my finger, I stroke on. I lose my bearings a few times – so distracted by the ring and how the sun catches its many surfaces.
One more memory on the itinerary, and it should be just around this bend, tucked behind some brush along the sandy shore.
It’s me and my two girls. We’re lying in a hospital bed welcoming the newest member of our family. I wrap my arms around them both – the three year-old and the newborn – and I try to convey the most complex of emotions through my squeeze – reassurance, confidence, unconditional love. I was almost thirty-two. And it was time for me to give on a whole new level.
A little sleep-deprived after that stop, I’m done visiting. I’m ready to return to the dock, plant in a comfy chair and plug my ears with some tunes. I make quick strokes across the lake and see my destination up ahead.
I step out of the boat onto the dock and unexpectedly look straight down the barrel of my thirty-sixth birthday.
No fear here.
I reach around and disarm it.
I am not afraid.
My past makes me passionate about tomorrow. I want to dance ‘til my body gives up. I want to be heard. I want to love and be loved like crazy. I want to rise continually to the challenge of giving on a whole new level. It’s a glorious day to be me, and I say – bring it on![Images: Thomas and Dianne Jones]