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.