Experience is a gift from age

Published 11:59 pm Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Hannah’s arrival was almost a birthday gift for me. My youngest grandchild celebrates her birthday Friday, one day after I celebrate mine.

She is excited about being a year older. While I’m certainly happy to celebrate another birthday, my excitement is tempered with the realization that I’m inching ever closer to 60, which when I was Hannah’s age seemed so old.

Funny how “old” changes as you arrive at a year you once viewed as somewhere in the distant future. Suddenly you understand that your body changes with the years but your mind hears the echoes of childhood and can return in a heartbeat to the feelings of those much younger days.

Now I understand what Daddy meant when he was approaching 70 and said his brain told him he was a certain age but in his heart he still in many ways felt like he did at 16.

However, he appreciated the wisdom, the “knowing” that comes with getting older.

“A 20-year-old has no idea how it feels to be 40,” he once told me, “but a 40-year-old knows exactly how it feels to be 20 because he’s lived it.”

I’ve lived where Hannah is now and there is a part of me that knows how she, and her older sister who also has a July birthday, feels. I understand the anticipation, the excited expectation she probably feels about growing older and experiencing all that lies ahead. I know because I once had those same feelings.

From where I am now, I understand how quickly childhood passes. It doesn’t seem that way when you are 8 or 9 or 10, but when you are 50-plus you understand those years went by in the blink of an eye.

So what gift would I give to Hannah, who is such a wonderful gift to my life? I’ve thought about that a lot these last few days.

Finally I decided if I had the ability to give her, and my other two grandgirls as well, anything in the world, first I’d choose to give them fun. I’d wrap up so much joy and laughter that it would not be used up in a lifetime. Hannah already gives those two gifts to everyone who knows her so I’d like for her to have them for herself.

Next, I’d fill a bag full of a sense of adventure and an ability to jump into life and just enjoy it. There would be baskets overflowing with a willingness to learn new things, to think new thoughts, to walk down new paths. I’d give her the gift of holding onto the wonder of where she is right now, that magic place filled with life’s possibilities.

I remember that place. You know it, too. It was where we lived when we said the words, “When I grow up I want to be…” I’d hope for Hannah to always have something bright and shining ahead of her, something calling her to come, make a wish, blow out the candles and believe the wishes will come true.

Last and most importantly, I’d find the biggest box ever made and stuff it with love, not just for others but also for herself.

Yes, although we arrived in the world years apart, Hannah’s day of celebrating her birth and my day of celebrating mine are almost the same. So this week when I wake up another year older, I’ll think of Hannah and the experiences waiting for her to grow into them, all the fun life has in store for her. I hope I share some of those experiences with her as we both keep imagining what we want to be when we grow up.