Today is a red-letter day. I will henceforth and for some time now, Lord willing, be filling in the blanks that ask for my age with a "6." Fortunately (I suppose), that sounds a lot older than I feel. My parents were ancient at age 60; I am not. I have neither a gray hair nor a bottle of Clairol stashed under my sink.
The other day I walked six miles along the Missouri River with a couple of good friends, neither of whom are using the "6" just yet. Somehow, they talked me into singing both verses of "The Missouri Waltz" at a scenic lookout spot there. When the lake warms up a little more, I have every intention of popping up behind the boat on one ski. These are not the kinds of things people do when they are old.
I am proud to claim the same birthday as Andy Griffith, and have toyed with the idea of having somebody whistle that wonderful theme song at my funeral. Don't get me wrong--I'm not making those plans just yet--but I hear that tune and suddenly I am time-warped right smack into the heart of Mayberry where Opie pedals his bike down the street in high-topped tennis shoes and Aunt Bee peeks in the oven to check her apple pie. Truth be told, I am a die-hard Andy Griffith fan. But I digress here, and Andy deserves his own blog post sometime.
Luckily, most of my friends and family will miss my birthday again this year. This is because it occurs on June 1, and, still recovering from the food, drink, and road miles of Memorial Day weekend, people have not flipped their calendar page over yet. When they do, my big day will have slid obscurely into history, lost in the flurry of plans for summer fairs and reunions and barbeques. It used to make me mad when this happened, but this year, I don't think I am going to mind so much.
Still, there is something about a birthday that invites reflection, and I am finding this to be even more the case today since I am actually rolling over a whole new decade rather than only a single year. So humor me. I want the spotlight for just a little longer here.
For me, this past decade has delivered a fair number of those milestone-type changes. Eight years ago, I retired from a career of teaching and learned what it is like to go to bed without a stack of papers to grade. Last year, I saw my dad through a terminal illness. In March, I had my first major surgery. Though they were certainly significant, I would not call these events redefining. Rather, what has redefined me, my life, and the whole essence of my being is becoming Googie nearly five years ago. Here, we are talking about a transformation in the truest sense of the word. It is nothing short of a whole new identity that I am excited to carry with me into this new decade that begins today.
This past weekend, we put the kids in their swimsuits, turned on a lawn sprinkler, and listened to them squeal with the shock and the delight of cold water squirting forcefully in every direction. We watched them revel in the excitement and promise of a new summer. "Look!" one of them shouted. "There's a rainbow in the grass!"
The kids are themselves a kind of promise. We look at them and anticipate the people they will become and the world they will create anew. Because of them, I can look at my life, even if I write my age with a "6," and always see a rainbow.