Friday, June 24, 2011

Felling Trees and Turning Fifty

Reflections on the day before I turn fifty:

I remember sitting in school during seventh grade and for some reason we were figuring out what year it would be when we were different ages. I don't think I even looked at what year I would turn 50. I probably didn't think I'd live that long. Most days I wasn't sure I was going to make it to tomorrow, because my Mother was really going to kill me one day. She threatened to beat me within an inch of my life quite regularly. (*Note: I was not abused. I believe that being threatened to be beaten to within an inch of your life was a term of endearment. After all, back then we thought our parents could really kill us and get away with it. She was at least going to let me live within an inch of death.)

My mother was and is a southern lady. She was raised to carry herself a certain way in public and to always, always be gentle and dainty. I was a great disappointment to the woman who was so looking forward to dressing her little girl in lace. She referred to me as "a bull in a china closet." Try as hard as she could, she could not turn a pigs ear into a silk purse. From the time I was old enough to get the clothes off that she had carefully put on me, my mother would find those frilly underwear with the lace on the bottom in trees, bushes, or just flung in the front yard. Evidently, at the time, I would rather run around without any than wear panties with lace on them. I wore the dresses she forced on me, but my knees and elbows were always skinned. One time she paid good money to have my hair permed at the "Beauty Shop," which I stood under the rain spout and washed out as soon as we got home. Thank goodness my Dad stopped her from ending my life that day.

I did Cotillion, tap lessons, piano lessons, and was taught how to act as a young lady. The problem was I just didn't care to act that way. I wanted the Tonka truck my brother got at Christmas not the doll baby. By sixth grade I was heavily into competitive sports. If I wasn't dribbling a basketball in the house or leaving fingerprints on the doorjams, (try as I might I was just too damn short to swing from the doors, but I could leave dirty prints as high as I could reach,) I was throwing a softball against the house or hitting a tennis ball through a dining room window. Dad saved me that day, too.

So by seventh grade, I just knew I would never make it to 50. I was surprised that I had somehow survived many childhood close calls, all of which were caused by the normal momentary lapses in reasoning powers associated with children. Who knew if you smashed two hammers together as hard as you could that a piece of shrapnel would lodge in your chest very close to your heart? When I dropped my new banana bike over the edge and flew down "Honda Hill," which was a very steep hill with a blind curve at the bottom,  I certainly didn't know my brother and his friends had built a cement block wall at the bottom. How could I predict that jumping on a pogo stick with no hands, on a wet cement porch, would lead to me being paralyzed long enough to scare my parents half to death? And really, how could they expect me and my buddy to know the guy that worked at the courthouse (Both our moms worked there and we lived near the county courthouse.) was a felon on work release when we bought him the jeans and new shirt, so he wouldn't have to wear the white shirt and pants he always wore. I mean you really can't hold a couple of twelve year olds responsible for aiding in an escape, can you?

My teenage years were no less exciting and filled with stupidity, but damn that was fun. My best friend  and I... well, there are some stories that are just better left untold. Just know that it is really, really illegal to drive on Jockey's Ridge National Park and the Wright Brother's weren't the only folks flying down on that beach. To add to the danger of teenage driving, I was taught to drive by my father who raced cars until my Mom made him stop because he had kids. I lost my driver's license for thirty days for having too many speeding tickets before I turned 18, but I can flat drive a car fast, very fast. The next thirty years had their close calls and I can't really blame them on childhood folly. I can only thank blind luck for my still being here on this earth.

It's like yesterday when I leaned the ladder on the tree I had just cut down. Yes, that's right, I had just cut the tree down, but it did not fall. Instead the trunk end fell and stuck in the big flower tub and the top hung up on the cable line running to my house. I climbed that ladder with a chainsaw and cut the top out of the tree so I could move the line. Mind you, I was alone except for the Cable guy working on my phone line. He laughed, said he wished he could help, but company policy meant he couldn't get involved. He did say he would call 911 if this all went badly. It did not and I got the tree down and left the cable undamaged.

While I was on top of that ladder, swaying back and forth, I thought about what Deb would say at the hospital, after she made sure I wasn't going to die. We've had this conversation several times in the 24 years she's been witness to my fearless idiocies. With one eyebrow raised and in that "I'm older and wiser than you and I don't do stupid stuff like this" tone, she would say, "Honey, you really didn't think that through, did you?" I'm sure that would be followed with, "And exactly how old are you?"

If I wasn't hurt too bad, I might say, "Is that in lesbian years? Cause in lesbian years we've been married like 75 years."

Really, some people wig out about getting old and I have to admit saying I'm fifty is a little daunting, but then I am lucky to be here. So woo-hoo, I'm fifty years old. I never thought I'd make it to this age so everything from here on out is a bonus.