Pep rally day at school. Screaming teens with faces painted for war, and someone’s got a fog horn I just can’t catch. All day…The type of day teachers dread. Earplugs for everyone.
I think this day keeps me young.
“What are you WEARING, Miss?” My shirt’s not the required yellow. Standing near the Black and Golds, it’s clearly neon green. Students forgive, adults laugh. The kind of laugh you laugh when you meet a truly stupid person and you’re trying to keep it all in. One spits coffee on his shoes and asks If I’m color blind. No. Just stupid. Or perhaps I’m just getting old.
The signs are there. I take pills out of jars and rearrange them so I don’t forget, yet still find myself asking, “Did I take that?” I set an alarm. The alarm interrupts something uninterruptable, I don’t stop what I’m doing. I forget.
“Maybe you should get one of those things that say ‘Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday…” said my husband and next-door teaching neighbor.
“The one in the senior citizen section?” Nope.
There are other signs I may be getting old. When I pull my hair back there are five silver threads. Not exactly a streak. Five individuals standing out in the crowd. An allegory, perhaps.
“Miss, want me to paint your face?” Most have chosen against doing their work in favor of pep rally prep–facepainting brushes with black, gold, and glitter. What moron actually assigns work three classes before pep rally? Teachers who are getting old, that’s who. I used to put work aside and make peppy signs with them.
“Sure…Paint my class year…” There are a lot of “’17’s” on faces. Fitting in with the crowd keeps me young.
“What’s your class year?”
“’89.” I sing our chant, “We’re so great, we’re so fine, we’re the Class of ’89.”
“I889?” She looks at me. She’s serious. Students do this every year. “Were you alive when…”
“No. 1989.” She paints me a nice 19-89 on two cheeks with black paint and gold glitter. I’m ready to pep.
I hand out earplugs to my colleagues and go downstairs.
One looks at my face. “That was the year I was born.” This starts a conversation where I realize I’m a generation older than my coworkers. Ancient. That much closer to death. I’ve never really felt my age. Time simply passed. Birthdays arrived. I got a new cake.
There are people in life who seem old and people who don’t. I posted a picture on social media. A friend chimed in. “Hey, that was the year I was born.” Now, she’ll start to discuss things like knitting and quilting with me.
When I go home, I look in the mirror and scrub off the indictment of old. Glitter goes down the drain, I see my face and smile. Ageless. More than just a number. A few decades earned–the type of decades that give me the experience to be less dumb and to make better decisions, not the type of decades where I my reflection grumbles I’ve led a hard life.
I’ve lived well, I’ve done good things, I’ve helped others, eaten freakishly healthy food, and tried to make the universe a better place. I like myself just fine.
Even though I’m old, and for a brief moment confess I watched the pep rally line dance and thought, “Oh my God, what’s gotten into kids these days…” But I caught myself doing it, clapped, smiled, and gave my students a thumbs up. They’re young and having fun. Best to let them do so, because before they know it, they’ll be a generation older than everyone around them, looking into the mirror, wondering if they are old.
Hopefully, they’ll have lived a good life and be young at heart, too.