Time is a mysterious thing that marches forward regardless of how we feel about it. Last week I was 39 and this week I’m 40.
Before my birthday I wanted people to ask after my age, so I could revel in my thirties for those final days.
Each day I told my children I’m 39. My four year-old son Luke is slowly coming to grips with time. For him, there is only today. Yesterday and tomorrow are muddled. He often asks me if Grandad is older than Great-Granny, or if Daddy is older than Grandma.
Last week he pressed my cheeks together like playdough, looked deep into my eyes, and said; “Mummy you are getting old now. You have a moustache growing.”
The turning of any decade is a milestone and I can remember feeling excited about the first two, some trepidation about being an actual grown-up for the third, and the fourth?
Recently I’ve noticed little but alarming signs of ageing in myself. There’s a slight sagging and wrinkling here and there, and a single tyre-track running down the middle of my forehead that I’m tempted to Botox away.
It doesn’t help that my internal selfie is in denial, and has frozen on an image sometime before I hit 30, giving me a slight shock when I look in a mirror.
I find myself secretly checking out other people’s faces for signs of wrinkles, as a benchmark for my own, wondering if I look all of my 40 years.
A lot can happen in a decade of life and to be honest this past decade has felt the longest because I had three kids. When I turned 30 I was married and child-free. When I turned 20 I was single and care-free.
I often find myself wondering how my children’s childhood compares to my own.
Sometimes the 80s call wanting their childhood back.
My brothers and I used to dart through a hole in the hedge to play with our neighbours. I swapped mixed tapes, listened to my Walkman and read Sweet Valley High. We got our first family computer when I was half way through high school.
1978 was a good year to be born. Grease was the word, the comic strip Garfield was published for the first time and the world’s first IVF baby was born in London.
My parents were living in Tanzania, Dad working for the government and wearing Safari suits, mum at home in a gated ex-pat community. My brother arrived 15 months later, and our African nanny would carry me on her back to run errands at the local markets. I imagine she sung or spoke in Swahili and I might’ve understood some of her language. Jambo!
When my parents shifted back home, I was nearly three years-old and had no concept of the prevailing Wellington wind. My dad likes to tell the story of how I was blown over the first time I set foot on our backyard near the top of the hill in Island Bay.
New Zealand was quieter then, and after my next brother was born we moved north. I was a free-range child, roaming the neighbourhood with friends and buying bags of one cent lollies at the corner dairy. Fizzies and pink smokers.
We lived in Hamilton until I was nearly 10 years-old and the oldest of four – my sister was born there. Our house was in a cul-de-sac off a cul-de-sac. Gaggles of kids walked from one house to another to play and swim in each other’s pools. The beach was too long a drive from the river city. I can’t remember adults supervising us, but they must have been there.
My children are growing up in Auckland and city life is different. They catch the Walking School Bus and have parent chaperones to the dairy. No bags of lollies, just a newspaper.
There’s still some charm of childhood in our neghbourhood. We live on a quiet cul-de-sac off a busy main road and the kids ride up and down our street with neighbourhood kids at the weekend, going between houses to play.
As for turning 40, it’s not so bad. A few days after my birthday, Luke said; “Great-Granny is older than Grandad isn’t she Mummy? Mummy you’re not old yet.”