I’ve usually been at a mental age that didn’t match my chronological age, and the older I get the more obvious my condition becomes. I admit to being “loosely wrapped” and “half a bubble off plumb,” but the truth is that I’m backing through life.
At the age of 4, I was a worried little old woman, feeding lunch to the smaller kids and keeping the baby from crawling into the fish pond while Mom walked to town for groceries. In school I was invisible and considered my classmates big, scary babies.
I hit my stride, with mind and body age flowing in joyful tandem during my own parenting years, and my favorite role was Mom in all its forms — room mother, den mother, Bluebird leader and block parent for any scared or injured kid. There were a few wonderful years when my kids and I were all about the same age, except that I was the one that drove the car and stirred the gravy.
When my daughter was in her mid-teens my predicament became apparent. Finally I had time for childhood and there was no one left to play with. Few adults had either the time or the desire to wander through the woods without schedule or destination, make concrete leaves and play in tide pools.
Then I discovered I could have playmates by hiring them to help in the garden. No experience necessary and we’ll learn from each other as we go along. The only requirement other than parental permission is a peaceful spirit, since rats are the only thing on the hit list.
First came Tres, a quiet boy who attracted amphibians. All he had to do was stand still and frogs and salamanders climbed his pant legs. He and I tackled big landscape problems before he went off to college in Washington.
Then came Aurora, a freshman at Del Norte High. We poured concrete, beat back the jungle, built stuff and occasionally rolled around giggling in the mud.
Bless her heart, she continues to play in tidepools and visit as a young woman, but it was apparent that she’d outgrown me by the time she went off to college five years ago.
I’ve missed having another kid around, but knew the right one would show up at the right time. And she did. In the middle of divine order cleverly disguised as total chaos and a broken wrist, along came Sally’s granddaughter, Riley. Since she’s 12 and interested in science, we share a lot of the same questions about how the world works.
Right now Riley’s emptying compost, making tumeric capsules and grinding flax seed, the things I can’t do, but by spring we’ll be out playing in the dirt together.
I can help with school fundraisers and, if I work it right, get myself adopted. She’s young enough that we’ll have several years before she outgrows me, and this apparent accident is looking better all the time.