The route I take to school is an old-Austin kind of thing. I’ve been driving it since I first moved here in 1990, when I lived on the north edge of the big campus. My little campus is between the big campus and my former apartments, so slithering on this snaky little stub of a boulevard—trees in the middle and everything—is autopilot. So it was odd that I glanced up at a student waiting to cross the road. The curve of cheek, loose limbs, stance, earbuds…
I thought, “What a baby. That one’s younger than B.”
I have truly hit That Tipping Point.
In our current society, there are several markers, or touchstones, of aging.
The first is when you’re unthinkingly tapping your toe to music in a commercial space (department store, grocery store, etc.) and suddenly realize they’re playing a song from your formative high school years. This seems to kick in during the late 30s, though for all I know it’s accelerated since it happened to me and then my sister. I should ask my big kids.
The second, for women, is the first stiff hair at the bend of your chin. You thought it happened on the other side of menopause, but it doesn’t. It’s the swallow of Capistrano for peri-menopause… the long hormonal uncertainty has begun.
The next one is less a clear mark and more an ombre: medical practitioners are no longer older than you are. They are frequently your age, and demeanor-wise feel more like a peer than someone whose authority you respect. Slowly, then, they become younger than you… your sibling’s age, or younger than that. Still, they went to a lot of school that you didn’t go to; a dose of respect is due for that, at least.
I’d heard my further-along friends refer to the people they encountered seeming as young as their kids. Which at the grocery store was a quick shift; the grocery store hires high schoolers. As does Target, and any of a number of retail establishments.
Living in a university town, I’d become accustomed to large swaths of humans seeming “about” my girls’ age. Girls frequently are hard to pin down, age-wise, between sixteen and twenty-three, so once ours were firmly in high school, it was all a wash.
But this isn’t that.
College kids are now younger than my youngest.
The arrival of Baby C has been pure delight and no collateral. Well, except the snarky delight I take in confounding expectations… it’s no wrestle with my place in the world to startle others with my grandmother-hood.
This? This is a reckoning. From here on out, I am ever more grandmother than mother. My weight of time has shifted on its fulcrum.