Monday, February 27, 2017

Eighteen years past

One of my favorite poem discoveries in recent years is this:

A Lady who Thinks She Is Thirty
by Ogden Nash

Unwillingly Miranda wakes,
Feels the sun with terror,
One unwilling step she takes,
Shuddering to the mirror. Miranda in Miranda's sight
Is old and gray and dirty;
Twenty-nine she was last night;
This morning she is thirty.
Shining like the morning star,
Like the twilight shining,
Haunted by a calendar,
Miranda is a-pining.
Silly girl, silver girl,
Draw the mirror toward you;
Time who makes the years to whirl
Adorned as he adored you.
Time is timelessness for you;
Calendars for the human;
What's a year, or thirty, to
Loveliness made woman?
Oh, Night will not see thirty again,
Yet soft her wing, Miranda;
Pick up your glass and tell me, then--
How old is Spring, Miranda? 


But yes, I am now eighteen years past the point where Miranda decided she was "old and gray and dirty" - a whole lifetime, almost. If I had had a child when I was 30, this year that child would be old enough to vote.

That said, 48 is an interesting number; it is divisible by many other numbers: 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, 16, 24, 48.

And if you carry all your past ages around in you somewhere, well...

I don't remember 1 or 2. Three I might *just* remember; I think 1972 was the year we went to Washington DC and saw the giant pandas. And when I was 4 I learned how to read and to print a few letters. By 6 I was in kindergarten and I know I was reading the old paperbacks of the compiled "Peanuts" strips my parents had (I remember my mom having to explain to me what "bitter sarcasm" meant from one of the strips...). At 8 I was in third grade, which was generally a good year: I had Mrs. Irish as my homeroom teacher, the school I went to was a standalone, third-grade-only school (it was in the old Oviatt Street School which, sadly, has since been torn down). I remember she had a "treasure chest" of little toys and you got to pick one if you did particularly well on a test, or if you were being very well-behaved when other people weren't, things like that. I remember my friend Rebecca and I doing some kind of self-paced spelling/vocabulary thing* where we were encouraged to make up sentences with the words and we got some kind of epic story going loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood, except the Big Bad Wolf really wasn't a bad guy and....

(*Self-paced learning was kind of a 1970s fad; I also remember the SRA cards. And unlike the author of that piece, I *loved* SRA and didn't find the cards - which covered all kinds of different topics - dull.  I blew through the whole box before Thanksgiving, so my reading teacher kind of sighed and started handing me books from the class library instead - that's how I read "Where the Red Fern Grows" and "The Little Prince.")

And 12. Well, my real-life twelfth year wasn't the *greatest* (junior high school. Seventh grade was the pit of despair but part of that year was spent being 13, so I just lump that into "unlucky 13" and move on). In sixth grade, the end of which I was 12 for, I had Mr. Radie for homeroom and science, and Mrs. Pierce (who had a son who also went to school with us who was named Howdy, and you can imagine the teasing he got) and Mrs. Bynum. Mrs. Bynum was one of those teachers most kids loved to hate - she was our math teacher. She was an older woman (or so I thought, though she could have been about the age I am now and just dressed a bit more dowdily than some - she wore a braided bun, for example, and very plain, severe skirted suits). She didn't let us use calculators (which was why some of the students hated her) and we were only permitted to use "shortcuts" if we could prove to her we understood why they were a shortcut and demonstrate we could get the right answer with them (I generally could, so I got to use the shortcuts). I don't mind now that she didn't let us use calculators; I see the wisdom of that: I am much better at doing math in my head than many of my peers, and some of my students have expressed frank amazement that I can do quick back-of-the-envelope calculations or estimate stuff and come close to the "calculator" answer.

At sixteen I was in high school, which was much better for me than junior high - I had friends, I was less-ridiculed for my academic interests, I had at least partly grown out of my tendency to cry too easily (which made me fun to tease at younger ages). I had friends, and for my sixteenth birthday several of them scheduled a sleep-over/movie-night at one girl's house and got my parents' permission (without my knowing) for me to go, and they took me out to dinner (at Chi-Chis. I wonder if Chi-Chis still exists). I learned to drive but because of bad nerves and bad performance anxiety, didn't pass the test until I was 18.

That was also the year I took AP bio. They only rarely allowed juniors to take it but a friend and I petitioned to be allowed to and we did. (I wound up taking five of the AP exams - three for classes I had taken, two just because I was doing well in the "basic" class and they figured it was worth my trying it. I will note with some pride I got 5s - the highest score - on Biology, French, English, and American History, and a 3 on AB Calculus. I'm still not that good at Calculus....)

And then 24: I was in graduate school. I would have been writing on my Master's thesis if I remember the year right (it would have been 1993). I had a good group of colleagues in grad school; most of us got along at least well enough to do group social things together - we went to see The Lion King (the movie) when it first came out (We had planned to see Forrest Gump, but one group was delayed* and tickets for it were sold out by the time they arrived. I think I enjoyed The Lion King more than I would have Forrest Gump.)

(* They had to stop and wait for a long freight, which led one member of our group - amazingly, not me - to comment to them, "You need to plan for things like trains" which kind of became a catchphrase the rest of the time I was in grad school)

And then, finally, 48. I don't know what this year will bring yet. So far 2017 hasn't been quite as unpleasant as the first part of 2016 was but one never knows. (In the Chinese horoscope, apparently your "birth animal" year - every 12 years - is not a good cycle for you, but I'm hopeful that Chinese astrology is as much bunk as the Western kind is).

I still feel like I'm making it up as I go along but maybe everyone really is and so that's okay.

What I'd like for the rest of 2017? To get over the recurring stomach issues (apparently I am now very prone to getting little viruses). To stop having hive problems (which actually may be contributing to the digestive issues: apparently it's possible to get them internally). For my paper in review to be accepted. For some kind of fix to the ongoing budget troubles in my state (and one that doesn't involve nickel-and-diming people like me to death). For a few more small businesses to open up near me, and for places like Quixotic Fibers to continue to thrive so I have them available.

1 comment:

CGHill said...

One of my favorite Nashes. (I think I caught it when I was 14 or so.)

And I, too, ran through the SRA cards with great haste.