Tomorrow is the big Christmas family gathering, Maryland style. Although we never have perfect attendance, the invitation is open to whomever can make the trek, and honestly we do quite well.
This year our family gathering will span 91 years. The youngest is three years old, and the eldest is 94 years young. Four generations will be represented in one gathering, which is pretty amazing. Because I fall exactly in the middle of the pack, I like to think it gives me an interesting, evenhanded perspective on both ends of the spectrum.
The great grandchildren will be represented by the youngest nephew who is three. He talks non-stop and wants to explore everything. Today he gave me permission to play with him about 2000 times (You may play with me now! You may play with me now!) and faked taking a nap when I was sitting in his room with him so he wouldn't be alone. He still can't tell a knock-knock joke, but has a devious smile and killer-long eyelashes, and I'm oh so glad that I am not the one who has to discipline him.
The other great grandchild is TeenTuna, who is just that: a teenager. A teenager with EVERYTHING that goes with it. She is bright, witty, insightful, thoughtful, funny, sometimes a little too flippant for her own good, a tad bit argumentative (if it makes her feel better, you could say she loves a good debate. ABOUT EVERYTHING) and occasionally downright Satanic. She has a devious smile, a beautiful voice and an infectious laugh, so even when I have to discipline her, I know we'll get past it sooner rather than later, because we all prefer the happy to the angst-filled teenage drama.
The youngest grandchildren are a couple of cousins are in their 20s. They make me feel old only because somehow my mind has them frozen in time as 8-year old kids. One of them is over six feet tall, and I just don't know how that happened. It will be nice to spend some time catching up, because I don't see them often. It's funny. Even though they have their own lives and careers, I will always remember them as skinny, sand-covered boys, surf-fishing in the Atlantic Ocean with their Uncle.
Several of us grandchildren are in the middle of the pack in terms of age. We are the adult parents of the kids, but in all honesty, get us together, and we're kids too. We laugh. We joke. We tease. We goof around. Nothing has changed except that we're allowed to drink a beer while we do it. To the kids, we are the adults. To the adults, we're the kids. To us? Well, I keep waiting to feel like a grownup, but I'm just as happy knowing intellectually that I'm a grownup and leaving it at that. I'd rather joke and laugh tease as long as I possibly can.
The next generation are the children who all look FAR YOUNGER THAN THEIR ACTUAL AGE. To me, they will always be the grownups. They are my parents, aunts and uncles. They taught me to ride bikes, went with me to Disneyland, introduced me to the Outer Banks of North Carolina, lived in exotic places and were the parents...just like my parents.
The matriarch of the gathering is 94 years young. She will look amazing and will be more put together than I could ever hope to be. She may not have much to say, but her life will speak volumes in stories and lives of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. We are teachers and builders and nurses and writers and artists. We love the outdoors and swimming and the ocean. We all have devious smiles, wicked senses of humor and a soft soul that loves art, music, good food and lively discussion. We have a tender place in our hearts for kids and animals. And lastly, although we each belong to our own generation, I can say without hesitation that every single adult would be more than happy to sit at the kids table, and every single kid could more than hold their own with the adults.
So to answer the question, how old am I? Anywhere and everywhere between 3 and 93. And how old do I feel? I think the answer is: Just right.