by Risa Green
I don’t tend to do well with milestones. I can appreciate them as important ways to mark the passage of time and all, but generally speaking, things like birthdays and graduations send me into a fit of hysterical tears about how quickly life goes by, as well as about how old I am getting. So you can imagine how well I’m doing this weekend, what with the double whammy of my daughter’s seventh birthday and my fifteen-year college reunion.
The birthday thing has long been a problem for me. I pretty much start crying every year about two or three weeks before my kids’ actual birthdays, as I begin mourning the passing of yet another year of their childhood. On the night before my daughter’s birthday last night, I kept thinking about how these were the last moments of six that I would ever have, and it was devastating to me, because six was a really great year. At six, she learned to ride a two-wheeler, she learned to read and spell like a real person, she had her first sleepover, and she lost seven teeth. At six, she was sweet, and delicious, and every night before bed she refused to let go of me when I hugged her goodnight, telling me that she couldn’t, because she loves me too much. At six, she still believed in the tooth fairy, she still thought that mermaids were real, and she still had the last remaining traces of her baby face. At six, she looked forward to emptying the dishwasher, because she still considered the quarter that I give her for doing it to be a lot of money. I loved six. Six was one of the best years of my life. And now it’s over..
But with all of the crying I’ve been doing about the loss of six, I’ve been reminded of all of the crying that I did fifteen years ago, when I graduated from college. I loved college. It was an incredible time in my life. I met my husband in college (though I couldn’t have imagined that he would become my husband), I made life-long friends in college, I grew and changed and found myself in college. For me, college was everything that it was supposed to be, and more. And I can still vividly remember sitting on the floor, in darkness lit by only a single candle, at my very last sorority meeting. All of the seniors went around in a circle and said goodbye, and I was crying so hard that I could barely even speak. I remember thinking, this is best time in my life, and now it’s over.
And now here I am, fifteen years later. And I now know, of course, that while college was a great time in my life, it wasn’t the best time of my life. A lot has happened to me in the last fifteen years. I’ve gotten married, had two kids, changed careers three different times. I’ve become a home-owner, a dog-owner, a life-insurance policy owner. My body has changed (not in a good way), my face has changed (not in a good way), my hair has changed (okay, in a good way), and my perspective has totally changed. Pretty much the only thing that hasn’t changed is the way that I torture myself about life’s milestones.
But I think it will be fun, going back there and reminiscing. I’m looking forward to seeing old friends and hearing about their lives. (Although, truthfully, I think that Facebook has probably taken most of the real fun out of reunions. I already know what everyone is doing, and I already know who is balding and who isn’t aging well, who is married and who is divorced. But still…) I’m also looking forward to taking my kids, and showing them where their mom and dad met, and where the life that we have now all got it’s start.
I’m sure I’ll cry when I visit my old dorm room, and my old sorority house, and the classrooms in the English department, where I spent so many hours of my life. But in some way, going back, I think, will be good for me. Because in thinking about how I felt at the end of college, I’ve realized that you never really know what the best time of your life is, do you? You might think you’re smack in the middle of it, and then five or ten or fifteen years later, you might think it all over again. So while it’s fun now and then to look back at life, milestones can also remind us that sometimes, it’s way more fun to look ahead.
So au revoir, six. Yes, I’m going to miss you – but seven, I think, might just be even better.