Nine. Twenty-seven. Sixty.
July 29, 2012 § 19 Comments
At nine, I sensed that I was either invisible, or the center of the universe. No one saw me. No one saw anything but me.
I was never sure which was worse.
At nine, this body of mine did nothing particularly well. I could not cartwheel, or run fast, or walk with grace. I couldn’t even whistle.
Although to be fair, I was not bad on a bicycle.
I could stand on the seat. I could put my feet on the handlebars. My nine-year-old body did tricks at the upper end of the neighborhood bike-trick scale.
None of the kids were significantly better.
A few were gratifyingly worse.
At twenty-seven, my body surprised me by getting pregnant. Still thin, I resembled a rope with a knot in it. As I watched, my body was taken over by something that grew and pounded the inside wall of me. Sometimes the baby seemed to sit upright, Buddha-like. Sometimes it chose to lie down, assuming the shape of a watermelon growing in open sunlight.
I am placid by nature, but the life inhabiting my body was restless and pointy. When I was seven months pregnant, my husband took the only nude photo of me ever shot. My stomach, stretched seemingly as taut as it would go, looks glossy.
I stare at the photo and wonder, who is this young woman? Even her dreaming face seems unfamiliar—judging by her expression, she is somewhere I’ve forgotten how to go. But I recognize the skinny limbs, those are mine. In the photo I resemble a balloon only half-blown up.
At sixty, my body is a different kind of thin, like doorknobs in a sack. As some essential padding disappears, the works become visible. The skin that holds the whole enterprise together sags comfortably.
At sixty, I know my body’s limits. I no longer push it to impress a watchful universe. At sixty, I know the universe is too busy to pay attention to the fall of a single sparrow.
I’ve given up on whistling.
But my body impresses me by continuing to do, not the show-offy, but the necessary. It gets me up and down off the floor to play with my grandson. It carries me around my neighborhood in long strides. It still holds a voice that can sing with joy, and I’m grateful.
Without this body I’d become a briefly lingering memory, little more than the after-image of the sun when you close your eyes.
Note: This is Fran doing a carwheel at 60, she couldn’t get the photo to stick to her comment but it was too good to waste. What can I say? If you got it you got it.