Guess what. I'm now officially old. I was given a birthday cake with candles and presents. People sang. I'm old. I'm 29.
The great omniscient gods are getting back at me. When Paul turned 29, I was ruthless. I laughed and jeered. I could, you know, from the smug security of being only 24. I even sent a Grim Reaper singing telegram to his office. I didn't understand that I, all too soon, would reach the end of my twenties, that I too would be one step closer to the dropping-off point.
At what point does one actually become a fully-fledged adult? I've been married for eight years, I have two children, we own stuff - doesn't that count?
No, it doesn't. And this is how I know. I took Matthew into a coffee shop. The girl who served us was probably 19. As we waited, I was transported back in time 10 years, the year I met Paul, when I worked as a waitress. Back then, I could stay out until 4 am, and still be cheerful at work five hours later. Today I couldn't be cheerful at work even after 8 hours sleep! I looked at this girl pouring my coffee and felt an invisible bond between us. It wasn't that long ago that I was she. But then, she looked up at me and the expression on her face jolted me back to reality. She was seeing a woman laden with baby and four-year-old son. To her, we were as different as a rooster and a marshmallow. To her, I was old and she still in her prime.
Then I understood my father's shock when he had turned 65. He had said that he didn't feel a day older than 22. I had rolled my eyes. How can you not know how old you are?
And now here I am not feeling a day older than 19.
On my birthday, my parents handed me an envelope in my own handwriting. I had forgotten that I had written this to myself at age 19, to be given to me on my 29th birthday. I opened it eagerly. Along with my learning that I was to have long blonde hair by this time, I was also (the letter said) to have been Christine in Phantom of the Opera and to be a lead singer in a rock band. What a shock! I put down the paper and couldn't bring myself to read it to my family. But what a relief that I have accomplished none of these goals!
Later that day, I took myself out for a cup of coffee. A 19-year-old served me. In her mid-drift and belly-button ring she looked fantastic but, remembering my letter to myself, I was not envious of her youth, I was relieved to have grown old.
I'm in the process of writing another letter to myself to be opened when I'm 39. My expectations will be much less embarrassing for me to read. By then, of course, I'll be really old - not like now!