When I was little my friend Beth lived in a house with a big front porch under which you could crawl and plot dark deeds against boy cousins and other troublesome wretches, and also dig graves in the loose, sandy soil. Not for our enemies though; these little trenches were for whatever dead critters we could find, mostly worms, lizards and bugs. We used kitchen matchboxes and such for coffins and conducted funerals with appropriate preaching and praying, singing and sobbing.
So I was tickled even sillier than I already am when this Internet joke arrived, one of those people like to pass on about the funny doings of kids.
It seems that a minister’s son and his two little buddies were holding a service for a departed bird, and he was overheard intoning, “Glory be to the faaather, and to the sooooon …. and into the hooole he goes!”
That got me to thinking about Art Linkletter and wondering if any of you out there are old enough to remember him. He had a radio show and then one on TV and the neatest thing he would do was interview children, who were inclined if you talked to them long enough to share personal insights on family matters their parents would rather they thought — much less said — nothing about. You know, like updates on daddy’s bathroom habits and mommy’s fake whatevers. Linkletter wrote a book titled “Kids Say the Darndest Things,” and my favorite anecdote from it told of the little boy who asked his father who Richard Sands was. “You know, we talk about him every day at school. We put our hands on our hearts and say, ‘We pledge allegiance to our flag and to our country for Richard Sands.’”
While I was thinking about children, I remembered how they tell you their ages. If they’re, say, 2, they’ll stick their fingers in their mouths and twist around a bit,then thrust two wet fingers up in your face. By the time they’re 3 or 4 or 5 or 6, they always want to claim another six months: “I’m 4 and a half!” “I’m 6 and a half!” “I’m almost 7!”
It’s a big thing to be older. It’s the same with teenagers, except that they leave out the halves and the day after one turns 15, he’ll tell you that he’s “almost 16 or 17.” Eighteen-year-olds are “almost 21.” Youth is antsy to age.
I can remember one day when I was 16 and heard Mother confide to my grandmother, “I’m happy right now. I’d just as soon nothing changed in life. That we all just stayed where we are.”
Heck, I thought resentfully, I don’t wanta be stuck at 16 forever. I want to grow up and do as I please! (I didn’t know then that very few adults get to do exactly as they please.) When our Methodist minister talked about the possibility that the Second Coming could occur at any time, I’d think, don’t you do it, Jesus. I want to grow up.
It’s been a long time now since I wanted to be older. My 35th birthday hit me especially hard, and I don’t know why. That was in 1970, and maybe I had bought into the mantra of the rebels of the ‘60s: “You can’t trust anyone over 30!” I didn’t feel old, but apparently I was.
I didn’t worry about 40 or 50 and not much about 60; I was too busy. By the time I was 70 though, I knew I was on a slippery slope, one that some beloved and much-missed friends would have liked very much to be on with me. Funerals were fun 70 years ago; they haven’t been for a long time.
I don’t think about birthdays much any more. But I do know that I’ll not be telling you that I’m 76 and a half. It made me laugh the other night when a baby-boomer friend — told she hadn’t gotten a senior discount on the price of a ticket to a play — protested, “But I’m 58 and a half!”
Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living Section, for which she wrote Silver Threads until her retirement. Email her at email@example.com.