I relish opening my arms to time

I’m well aware I have passed my “best before date,” though I’m not exactly certain when that happened.
I still, with surprising frequency, wander around feeling unchanged from my 20-something self. But when I least expect it, my reflection in a mirror or window changes all that.
When I glance at the current version of myself, I’m surprised–not in a birthday party kind of way, where those I love jump out from behind the sofa, but more of a someone broke an inflated balloon behind me kind of way.
It’s a shock, to say the least, and I feel compelled to turn and ask someone, anyone really, using my most demanding tone: “How did this happen?”
Because I have a memory that clings to the tiny details of my childhood, it always seems that my childhood wasn’t that long ago. I remember running through the sheets while Annie hung her laundry on the line as if that happened last week.
I can hear the sound of her wringer washer gurgling and swishing, and feel the soap bubbles on my skin.
I can smell the coffee brewing on her stove and I can feel the damp on my skin in her milk house, where she separated the cream. I can hear the sound of her refrigerator opening (the closing device clunking when Annie pulled on the handle) and I can feel the cool smooth of her white cream pitcher against my cheek.
I can see Annie wipe the stray hairs from her face when she looked at me, just before her face smiled and let me know everything in the world was as it should be and being my baby-sitter was all that mattered to her.
All those details are within my reach whenever I need them. I close my eyes and I’m instantly transported to that time and space; to the safety and joy of my childhood–something I call on for comfort when homesickness strikes.
Now when I lie in bed and stretch my arms up to the ceiling, I notice the skin pooling at the crease in my elbow. And though I laugh and shake my head, I must say this aging thing stuns me.
There’s nothing to do but laugh. Aging is unavoidable and it is something earned; a privilege if you will.
My abdominal muscles saw the challenge of stretching to what seemed like my skin’s very limits to carry four daughters through to full term. Like an inflated balloon, skin doesn’t always retreat in a perfect manner.
I feel like a large map that has been opened up and though we may try desperately, we can’t find our way back to the perfect fold.
Luckily, glamour was never my forte. Brushing my hair and washing my face was the extent of my beauty regime. I experimented with liquid blue eyeliner in Grade 9 and I must tell you, I felt exotic for about an hour-and-a-half–until I walked out of geography class and heard a voice behind me say, “Stewart looks like she put her make-up on with a fork.”
There ended my experimenting with the intricacies of being a girl.
My father used to tell me he had furniture disease: his chest was in his drawers. I laughed, but had no real idea of what he was talking about then. I do now.
But in my memory, my father retains his super-hero status; his hands strong, a bit like bear paws, his arms effortlessly lifting me to safety, gathering me up and taking me from harm’s way.
The 43 years since I was able to crawl under his heavy arm are but a blink in time and nothing fades the image of him–not time, not geography, not thought.
So aging doesn’t matter, has no bearing on who I am. I can be at once the small child filled with dreams of farming, the mother bear who fiercely would protect her cubs, or the teenager who had no idea what she was doing.
I open my arms to time. Bring it on.
wendistewart@live.ca