Nine. Twenty-seven. Sixty.

July 29, 2012 § 19 Comments

At nine, my body was an embarrassing collection of ill-matched parts and motions. Skinny. Uncoordinated. Awkward. I would have hidden all of myself behind my back if I could have, not just my hands.

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 the world I love would slip away.

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.


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§ 19 Responses to Nine. Twenty-seven. Sixty.

  • Liz Jameson says:

    Like doorknobs in a sack…awesome! You are one brilliant lady, no matter which age you happen to be gracing with your presence!
    I never could do cartwheels either.


  • Richard Dempsey says:

    Happy Birthday, treasured lady. Richard D.


  • Mary Z Cox says:

    Love your writing — as usual. Adrian — why not come to yoga class with me? Genevieve is pregnant, but still leads an uplifting class for young & old. My body actually feels much better since I’ve been in this class. I never do the hard poses — just the easy and restful ones 🙂 since I am the laziest person in class — you will look good no matter what you do. 🙂
    That is my gift to the yoga class–taking up the position of most embarrassing 🙂


    • Thanks for the offer Mary. I do my own interpretation of yoga every day in my living room (I am always the worst in the class). All in all I feel as if age is going easy on me, but there is no way to dodge the cumulative effects of time forever. I just do what I can to slow the process.


  • robinecker says:

    I did cartwheels. I could do the monkey bars hand-over-hand, too. I read well and lots. I wrote stories and drew pictures. But nobody seemed to notice or care that I excelled in these things, so neither did I. I couldn’t play baseball or volleyball and although I did memorize the multiplication tables, I didn’t memorize addition/subtraction facts until I began teaching them. Not having those skills mattered more than the skills I did have – like doing cartwheels and reading.


  • No cartwheelies for me, either! Girls with substantial boobs and “periods” at ten just didn’t do them! I long ago realized that the combination of German/Scottish/Cherokee genes doesn’t make for slim bodies, but they sure help with he muscles needed if you decide to sing opera!



  • Iris Melton says:

    I’ve never been able to do cartwheels or whistle, either. But, I was a pretty good bike rider when I was young, too! I enjoy reading your blogs!


  • Fran says:

    You’ll have to take that back Adrian, this is me 5 years ago when I was 60 and just learned that our daily newspaper signed the contract to have me do a weekly column, “Backyard Adventures.” I was so excited I felt like doing cartwheels.I was surprised to find out that I still could! I still love doing the column at age 65, but I haven’t tried the cartwheels since. Hmmm


  • KM Huber says:

    Our birthday month is almost upon us, Adrian. So glad to know we no longer have to consider cartwheels–ah, the advantages of aging. I seem to be your opposite body build, one I’ve often described as German-Russian peasant stock, although some years stockier than others. Yet, this body has served me well for it has endured all of my requests.



  • Mary Z Cox says:

    Hmm– been wondering lately if I could actually do a cartwheel . What do you think ? Would my arms fall down or would I break bones? Maybe try it on the beach in the sand ? Haven’t even tried it in maybe 20 years. Anybody know the answer? I’m not skinny, but not fat — my legs are stronger than my arms. Would it be better to try it fast so centrifical force would kind of whip me over? I can lift a 50 lb basset hound into the backseat dog hammock– so my arms are not too whimpy . What do you think of this cartwheel thing?
    Don’t want to break any bones or kill myself –but think this really could be fun– to fly upside down again 🙂


  • Roy Weidner says:

    your doin’ alright


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