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Stations of the Cross

February 6th, 2012  |  by  |  Published in Uncategorized  |  13 Comments

Today is my daughter’s 6th birthday, so of course I’m thinking about death.

Or rather, I’m thinking about the way life unfolds dimly and predictably on the path to death. I was reminded of this just a minute ago: In line for coffee uptown, I overheard two men, better dressed than I and even a little grayer, talking about their weekends. Specifically, that there had been a birthday in the family of one of them, and that the birthday was a sixth birthday, and that the boy chose a superhero-themed party.

Which is, of course, exactly what Dalia’s party was yesterday (hence the caped crusader flying on the chalkboard here). It was a superhero party. She had all her friends come to a place near Union Square called Karma Kids, which based on the name could have been annoying but turned out to be fantastic, and they ran and played and planked and had a ridiculously good time.

I didn’t butt into the conversation this morning—I like to pretend I never eavesdrop and also I like to not talk to people before I get my AM coffee—but it all reminded me of the sameness of six-year-olds. It’s akin to the sameness of 3-year-olds and of 16-year-olds and 36-year-olds. Dalia is many wonderful things, but right now she is, more than anything, a six-year-old, with the skills of a six-year-old, the interests of a six-year-old, the emotional tics of a six-year-old. She likes to draw, and dance, and play games on the iPhone when I let her. She is a big fan of Star Wars. They all are.

And I am a 36-year-old, with 36-year-old skills, interests and emotions. I did not shave this morning, because there is little point of rigorous hygiene when you’re married and 36. I rode a bike like an idiot up the length of Amsterdam this morning, squeezing between delivery trucks and cabs, because I am a 36-year-old and a slightly irresponsible bike-ride is the perfect amount of risk/rush for 36-year-olds. I am in the middle of everything, neither hot nor cold, not young not old, not wildeyed nor asleep. I may think I’m an individual, but actually I’m just a 36-year-old.

I find all of that a bit depressing (of course! I’m 36!). In the same way that when all of us started moving in with our girlfriends, and then we all started getting married and then we all started having kids, I grew increasingly suspicious that what I had seen as joyous new developments on the path of life were in fact just predetermined Stations of the Cross, and that we are all just dullard pilgrims kissing the ground at each then picking ourselves up and moving to the next station. Even those of us who defied neater timelines, delayed by drug use or stubbornness or bad luck, also seemed to be predictable. Rather, their unpredictability existed in predictable ratio to the rest of us.

This post? Also totally typical for a 36-year-old. I have the capacity, quite standard for my cohort, to squeeze the joy out of anything. And there, as expected, is where my daughter, and all her little friends, are so much cooler than me and mine.

Part of what makes a 6-year-old a 6-year-old is the fact that every new station is greeted with absolute enthusiasm and joy. It’s as if Dalia was the first person in the world to turn six and enter this magical world of sixness. As she put it yesterday, “My brain is telling me: BIRTHDAY BIRTHDAY BIRTHDAY BIRTHDAY.” So it is with all the other changes. Loose tooth? Awesome! Starting kindergarten? Hell yes! Big enough to hold a dustpan and a broom? Fantastic!

Her emotional life, just like that of all six-year-olds, is getting more complex by the day. But still, there is an underlying response to life, whether she rages or swoons, that is so direct and so luminant that I can hardly bear to look at it. In other words, if I was forced to think too much about how happy she was yesterday, it might break my heart. Why? Fuck if I know. Probably because I’m 36.


Responses

  1. scottstev says:

    February 6th, 2012at 2:38 pm(#)

    Did you manage to keep it a no-presents party? Or was Dalia going to have none of that?

  2. Nathan says:

    February 6th, 2012at 3:56 pm(#)

    @Scottstev No, her pilgrimage included presents this time: art supplies and books and a little velvet flower. She was quite pleased.

  3. Summer Block says:

    February 6th, 2012at 6:37 pm(#)

    Just wanted to say I absolutely, seriously loved this. Typical, I’m almost 32.

  4. dadwagon says:

    February 6th, 2012at 6:46 pm(#)

    @Summer: yeah, you guys are so passionate about the written word and whatnot. You’ll grow out of it in 2.5 years.

  5. Marilyn Block says:

    February 6th, 2012at 7:15 pm(#)

    Just have to let you know that I love this. Saw it via my daughter, Summer’s posting on FB. Gotta let you know that when you get to be my age, 57, you start thinking a lot more like Dalia again.

  6. Nathan says:

    February 7th, 2012at 9:14 am(#)

    @Marilyn Very glad to hear that a little magical thinking will be typical for me, in 20 years…

  7. Inese says:

    February 8th, 2012at 8:22 am(#)

    I guess I’m a typical (almost) 32-year-old too, as I loved this post. Then again – Nathan’s writing could bring me to tears also way back in my 20-ies. Maybe it’s just that he has a way with words. :))

  8. dadwagon says:

    February 8th, 2012at 10:36 am(#)

    Wow, Inese. You really are old (for a former student of mine). And if I made you cry, I think it’s just because I was a bad English teacher (though I would like the world to marvel at your fluency and pretend that I can take credit…)

  9. Jason says:

    February 9th, 2012at 12:39 am(#)

    This was so great.

    “But still, there is an underlying response to life, whether she rages or swoons, that is so direct and so luminant that I can hardly bear to look at it. In other words, if I was forced to think too much about how happy she was yesterday, it might break my heart. Why? Fuck if I know. Probably because I’m 36.”

    Man, I’m 42 and I still have no clue.

  10. Whit says:

    February 9th, 2012at 12:55 am(#)

    My son turns 6 in a week. He just held his first dustpan.

  11. Kent says:

    February 9th, 2012at 8:58 am(#)

    @Nathan,

    Dude, you certainly do have a way of squeezing the joy out of everything (and a great way of expressing it).

    But really, speaking from past experience, not all 36 year olds are like this. You need to move somewhere with blue sky and sunshine 300 days of the year – like Colorado (you can write this blog from anywhere right?). Nothing like a Rocky Mountain High to give you a more joyous outlook on life. At least there after kissing the ground between stations, when you look up you do see Heaven (or maybe it is just the lack of oxygen at that altitude making you see things).

    You do not need to wait until your are 50+ to revert (or evolve?) to viewing the world like Dalia does.

    But heck what do I know…I am 51 with an 8 year old boy who loves Star Wars and wants to be a pastery chef (or a scientist or ???).

  12. Marty says:

    March 7th, 2012at 10:21 am(#)

    WOW. Finally got around to checking your blog. As expected, it’s weeks later than we talked about it, and as expected, I’m blown away. This post is absolutely fantastic.

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