What I wrote before I turned 40

I found this in my google drive and it transported me to that magical fall before Zev was born.

All of the trees in our yard have shed their leaves, except one. One stubborn tree. Some of its leaves are still green, but the top ones are tinged red and I know it will only be a few more weeks before it, too, will be nothing but branches.

A few weeks ago the world was awash in color. Reds, yellows, and oranges against a blue, blue, impossibly blue, sky. The world feels different when it is so yellow, when the green is gone and hillsides become crisp and golden. Almost suddenly the slanted sun seems softer, less oppressive, and the world is one deeply drawn breath of fresh air. Ah…..fall.

When Robert Frost wrote  “Then leaf subsides to leaf/ So Eden sank to grief/ So dawn goes down to day/Nothing gold can stay” he was probably talking about Spring. But in my head I always picture the golden leaves of Fall. They drop and float down, almost imperceptibly–the glorious crown of a tree one day and then nothing but brown litter on your lawn the next. The leaves and with them, Fall, blow away with the winter wind. Nothing gold can stay.

This year, the beginning of my 40th year, I’m feeling the poetry of Fall more acutely. Since I was born on the precipice of winter, I’ve always known that  “nothing gold can stay.” But I’m feeling it increasingly in my bones.

I have one fall baby. The last baby. And I remember vividly watching my first son play in the leaves as we waited for his brother to be born. He would “choo-choo” through waist high piles of yellow and orange, the rustle of leaves matching the shuffle of his little feet. He was oblivious to the giant leap in maturity he would be forced to take any day. Instead the wind took his blond hair, turned impossibly golden by the fall afternoon sunlight, and lifted it, making a little rooster tail out of his bangs.

Robert Frost kept echoing through my head. Nothing gold can stay. Things are going to change. But let him run one more time around the park, kicking the leaves and laughing. Let him be oblivious to the setting fall sun.  

I know I’m not old. But nothing gold can stay. Things are going to change. And I see that I can’t run like I used to without a nagging pain in my hip. My back can get thrown out and my toes turn numb in my high-heeled boots. But please let me stay oblivious to the setting fall sun. 

I’m not dreading my 40’s. But I’m just not ready to say goodbye to my 30’s. It’s hard to say goodbye to the decade that brought me motherhood, to the decade where I settled into life. It feels like a golden decade.

And nothing gold can stay.

And this pairs well with what I wrote on the occasion of my 40th birthday.

To say goodbye to my 30’s, I made a list of 30 things that I loved to do. And because I’m a girl who loves a “to do list,” in the weeks leading up to my birthday I made a conscious effort to do them. They ranged from spectacular—swim in the ocean, to very simple, pause and look up at the stars if I come home after it’s gotten dark. There was a lot of food on the list—eat super delicious brownies, eat a slice of freshly baked bread and some that involved other people—play soccer with Zev, listen to Dave play the piano. A few pushed me–like try something new and others I could melt into—get a massage.

So the last couple of weeks have been full of mini-celebrations, moments like when I look down at the milk swirling in my tea and think, “Happy Birthday, self!” or when I’m talking on the phone to my cousin and I think, “Yes, this is a gift—a gift for my birthday!” And what I’ve realized is that, in fact, my days are full of gifts. Then, when I look back over my 40 years, they are a wonder, not because I’ve done anything spectacular but the exact opposite; I have thousands of ordinary and truly breathtaking moments. Like a highlight reel—that’s just for me. The first bite of warm gingersnap, the softness of Lalo’s hair when I kiss his freshly shampooed head at night, Mae hitching up her pants, the smell of Dave’s shirt before I toss it in the washing machine. I’m so grateful. I’m hoping to savor them more in my new decade. I’m going to slow down, take a deep breath and say, “Right now—this one—this is a gift to me.”

2 thoughts on “What I wrote before I turned 40”

  1. I read this to dad as we traveled on the last leg of our California trip. It delighted us both. Not only did you transport us to a beautiful place of reminiscents, but to our appreciation of you as a gifted writer. We are so grateful that we “called you Mandy.”


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