I don’t remember how old I was when the conversation happened. Probably still young enough to be eating coco-pops in bed with Nan and Pa when we visited. But I remember where I was standing, by Nan’s dresser, just below the picture of her when she was a girl. Those portraits that were closer to a painting than a modern snap. I think I had made a comment that she looked beautiful or pretty. I don’t remember my words, but I remember hers, as clearly as if she spoke them just a moment ago. She pointed to that picture and said “I’m still like that inside. You might look at me and think I’m an old lady, but inside I’m the same as you.”
I did think she was old, which is funny, because my parents are now older than she was then, but they don’t feel old at all. Maybe parents never do. But her words stuck with me because they changed me. I could never quite look at her, or my parents, or anyone older than me in quite the same way
I started watching the television show “Younger”. It is about a women in her forties who pretends to be 26, so she could fake her way into an entry-level job. She couldn’t get into the industry of her youth after so many years out of the workforce. The show didn’t grab me, but as I watched the first episode, I had to remind myself that I technically should be relating to the Liza character rather than her young peers. But I didn’t. Twenty-six seems not that long ago. And yet as tomorrow we tick-over to 2019, my fortieth seems much closer than it did even a day ago.
Inside I feel so much younger than I am. Maybe it’s because I spend my days watching Disney-movies, putting together lego, and taking parts in imaginary ballet concerts on my daughters bed. Or maybe it is the strangeness of the SAHM world, where people start again, and the only age that matters is the age of your offspring.
Or maybe, like my Nan, I am just younger. Younger than I look, or am. Maybe that is how we all are. Like the story of the man walking down the street, noticing the old guy in the shop window, then starting because it is his own reflection.
A few years ago I found this dissonance troubling, as I realised the “young people” in our lives no longer saw me as a peer. I am slowly making peace with that, accepting the change, realising that it doesn’t matter how others view me. That I am more than a number, an aching back or a new grey hair. That I am a product of experience, that I am wiser, more objective, and less materialistic. But still myself. That as long as my legs will let me, I will be the first person on the dance floor at a wedding. I will still be unable to put down an exciting novel no matter the time. I will still walk the beach at sunset, and cry at the sappiest things. Because those aren’t young-people things. They are just me.
And now my parents are young and in their sixties, and my Nan is in a nursing home. But she keeps a box of toys under her bed for the Great-grandkids, and her face lights up at the sight of a baby, the way it always has. We are both a great deal older than we were.
But not so different on the inside.