One day at work I was standing at the watercooler (yes, a literal watercooler) and noticed a cute young thing wearing a pair of fabulous flowered boots. When I complimented her on them, she smiled and replied, “Thank you. They’re vintage 1970’s Doc Martens.” Vintage? Was she kidding? The 1970’s were practically yesterday. I know this because I remember them as if they were. I remember dial phones and gas station attendants who pumped our gas. I remember playing with Fisher Price toys, watching SchoolHouse Rock, and wearing bell bottom pants the first time they were hot. Retro is bad enough but vintage? According to one website, something must be at least 50 years old to be true vintage. I could spend this blog post lamenting the fact that I’m true vintage, half a century old today. In fact, if you want to get morbid about it, I’m guessing it’s safe to say I have more days behind me than ahead of me.
Or I could wax witty about all the interesting things that I have noticed as I’ve inched closer to the big 5-0. Things like the fact that most of the time in my head I don’t feel like a day over 20 until I can’t remember why I went into a different room. Or when my body reminds me of my age at my attempt to turn a cartwheel and feel hot fire surging through my hips. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t THAT long ago that I was turning cartwheels through the living room. Or why, for the love of all that is good, am I wide awake at 3:00 am? Why are my eyebrows brown when I go to bed at night and white when I wake up? It’s as if they’re conspiring against me. Let’s freak out Kathryn and be white when she wakes up. That’ll send her over the edge. And must the law of gravity prove itself out so brilliantly in my midsection?
It’s all quite something and enough to make me crazy and a bit terrified of what’s to come, and I console myself with the idea that everyone takes their turn being vintage. Everyone gets older and aches when they get out of bed. Everyone with kids experiences the unchartered territory of parenting adult children. Everyone my age thinks of retirement and wonders how in the world all of that’s going to go. Everyone this. Everyone that.
And then I’m struck with the realization that while I’m in good company among friends and relatives who have gone through or are going through similar things in life, not everyone has. Some people don’t make it to 50 to experience the aches and pains and weirdness that comes with the privilege of entering another decade. Some people have children who don’t make it to adulthood. Some people who have made it to 50 don’t have the middle age spread because of sickness that threatened their very arrival at this birthday.
So, I choose to turn around for a few minutes and look back at the wealth of blessing I have experienced in the last 50 years. Meeting Jesus at such a young age. Marrying my best friend and celebrating 26 years together. Raising two of the world’s most amazing children. Meeting and teaching English to people from all over the world. Traveling, downsizing, going back to school, and health that has allowed me to do all of this.
Birthdays are not to be dreaded or feared. But they’re also not just another day. They’re the one day built into our year to stop and take stock of what God has done and where He has brought us and to thank Him because not everyone takes a turn at being vintage. That’s a privilege and blessing that at the end of the day is bestowed on us by God and no one else.