When I was young, I sat at the "kid table" at family gatherings. We children were segregated in the basement family room, using piano benches and stools, seated at a card table.
The "grown ups" sat together in the dining room, around the "real" table.
I couldn't wait to sit at the "big" table.
My parents, at that time, were old - very, very old.
Thinking about my perceptions back then, I have to laugh.
Those "old" parents were about 35.
It's funny how "old" is a shifting target. When I was 9, it was 35. At 30, it's 50. At 50? Well, my parents are 76 and I don't think they're that old. My grandma, at 99? Well, I guess she's old.
I know that no one asks a real lady her age, but since my staff so considerately told the entire circulation of the Northwest Iowa Shopper my age on Saturday, that cat's out of the bag.
I now qualify for AARP. I've sat at the "big people's table" longer than the kids table.
I've been married nearly as long as I was single. I've raised my son to adulthood. I graduated high school and college. I've passed many big milestones in my life.
At 20, new experiences were around every corner. With the naiveté of youth, I embraced them all.
At 40, I'd been burned a time or two. I had a child. I was more cautious, less open.
Well, it takes more to amaze me than it did at 20. I have to look harder to find a new experience. I have to seek out adventure. And, I have to push through the cynicism that comes from seeing a lot of good and bad.
I used to joke that I would grow to be the mouthy old woman of the family, quick with a biting comment. I now remind myself often to listen more, talk less. That earlier joke was on its way to becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. Age has brought the wisdom that listening well, and speaking less, is a key to happiness - in yourself and in your home.
I know you can still grow, still grow up, even as your years pile one on top of another.
And, despite the inclination to assume that I know best, I also understand I can still learn things - lots and lots of things.
I recall one of my favorite poems by Robert Frost, "A Road Less Taken." I've always been drawn to its imagery, and its message of seeking out a different path from the crowd. I used to lament that I didn't choose the less traveled road.
But I've come to realize his words don't have a timeline. You don't have to choose the path "less traveled by" at 17 or 25, or 37. And, I like to think that divergent fork in the road could still be in front of me.
Fifty isn't the "new 40, and I don't want it to be. At 50 I'm smarter, stronger, and happier than 40.
And, the path ahead looks to be filled with exciting twists and turns.