Thursday, October 12, 2017

Now I am 48. Also, I have a plan.

48 in my boots!
Usually I write a post on my birthday. I consider the events of the year leading up to it, and I treat it as my own personal New Year's Day.

This year, in August, I turned 48. I find it hard to believe, honestly, although I don't know why. Seriously.

When I'm with my high school friends, I forget we are no longer 16 or 17. Really. Here we are, some of us with kids in college, or "collegers" as my kids call them. And still, we're all teens to me. In the best possible way.

And this is how much we laugh. I don't laugh like this in my normal life. I end the weekends exhausted and fragile and wanting more, just a little more. I have never tried cocaine but maybe this is what it's like?
When you laugh so hard you fall off your chair
(I love this photo, desperately leaning against my dear friend Wendy's leg for support.)

I'm a better parent than I would've been in my 20s and 30s. I'm happier than I was at those ages.

But left to my own devices, sometimes I totally forget that I've lived this long.

I mean, when I was a kid in Bangladesh, we'd have to schedule a call on our enormous, chunky black dial telephone to my grandmother in North Dakota. We'd get a call back from the operator without warning. It could be 3:00AM.

My parents would rush to wake me up so I could shout over the terrible, crackly international line, I LOVE YOU SO MUCH GRAMMA LILLIAN! THANK YOU FOR THE BABY DOLL AND THE MARSHMALLOWS!

The first time she visited us in Dhaka, I had worms. You don't get worms in Minot, North Dakota. She rolled with all of it.
In a bicycle rickshaw
My grandmother regularly sent us packages, and she used to pad all them with marshmallows instead of Styrofoam. We had an endless and magical supply of marshmallows.

For a long time I thought everyone packed with marshmallows.

But can you even imagine using a heavy black plastic rotary phone now? Scheduling a call? Relying on the operator?

What I'm saying is: I've lived a while.

How I feel at this age is not upsetting. Here's what's throwing me for a loop: the OH MY HELL I'M ALMOST 50!

I'm firmly a middle aged woman.

Though I feel fine, though I have smart, beautiful, cool, similarly-midddle-aged friends, and friends who are older that I love and admire, I feel like aging is rough for women in today's society. The term "middle aged woman" does not conjure up positive images.

I believe it's easier to be an aging man. Let me fix that sentence. I believe it's easier to be an aging man.

I also think I wouldn't be in this crisis if the world didn't feel so calamitous. My baseline anxiety and agitation is very high. Add a dollop of anything, and I am easily pushed over the top.


On my birthday, I didn't take my "today I am this old" picture. The picture above is my "I am 48" picture.

I had Nick capture me in this outfit because I love everything about it. It was the first time I ever wore cowgirl boots with a dress. I love the look!

I'd been waiting until it was cold to wear my boots with jeans, but no longer! If I do this, I can wear them way more often! I'm trying to come up with other outfits for my boots. If I lived in Texas I'd have so many pairs.

I strongly suspect that a second pair of cowgirl boots would improve my life immeasurably.

Anyway, I didn't write a post, not because I was freaking out, but because we were just so busy. So I'm doing it now.

This year, I fell down on Jordan's, Betty's, and my birthday posts. I may write them and post in the coming month, for posterity.

On my birthday, I'd just driven the kids and my mom to and from Toronto in one week (yes, I did! I have an upcoming post and pictures, because it was amazing). We did many things, but sleep was not so much among them. I returned exhausted and with a sinus infection.

And the day before my birthday, we went to a memorial service for Australian Builder, our friend Kim, who passed away August 1. (You know him. He's in so many of my house construction stories over the last eight years.)

Kim's memorial service, which was really a big party at an American Legion hall, was where my children learned the drinking song they stayed up at night singing in this post.

When you went to the bar to order, the bartender said, "The first one is on Kim." I cried and drank a lot of beer. This didn't help my sinuses.

The following week, Betty went into the hospital for blood transfusions. The next day, on Jordan's birthday, Nick drove the kids up to camp while I tried to figure out care for Betty so I could join them.

Betty was back in the hospital for the third time. She got out on her birthday.

What I'm saying is, we had a hell of an August and September.

But now it's October, and I have something I want to put out in the universe.

I've been walloped by the number 48 and its proximity to 50, and my reaction is pissing me off.

I mean, at 25 I had a quarter-life freakout. And after 35 I was fretting about whether or not I'd ever get married and start a family. But a lot of that was driven by internet dating, and men whose age cutoffs were 35. There were men who mentioned that I would walk to get serious fast because, basically, I was running out of time. There was the guy who flat out asked me what was wrong with me.

Internet dating for me at ages 37 and 38 was fraught with little traumas. And then I met Nick, who just plain felt lucky that I was single.

So I wasn't so much upset about my age as my situation.

This fret is the number. And the fact that I'm bugged really annoys me. Am I that shallow? (Maybe.)

I feel like, oh, stop it! Celebrate the age you are, because you're lucky to alive and surrounded by loved ones. Appreciate what you have.

So this is what I've decided, and I'm putting it out into the universe for help making it happen.

In two years, I will turn 50, god willing. I am going to celebrate that birthday big.

I'm going back to India, to New Delhi, where I was born, half a century prior.

I started saving for the trip last month, when I decided, because it's a huge endeavor. Planning, which I am admittedly mediocre at, will come later.

My habit has always been read the guidebook on the plane, or maybe when I'm there, wherever there is. Or just look things up as I go. But in this case, traveling alone and with limited time, I will plan ahead. I have two years, after all.

If my family can manage without me for two weeks, that's how long I'll go for. It's such an expensive and long journey, and you have such jet lag when you arrive, that less than two weeks seems pointless.

Now that I have this plan, which at this point is no more detailed than what I've told you, I'm excited! It's something huge to look forward to.

I haven't been back in 22 years. I know Delhi has completely changed. There are fancy malls and a metro! Palika Bazaar, which used to be this claustrophobic underground warren of cigarette-smoke filled shops now looks all swank!

I was born in New Delhi, in Holy Family Hospital. After that we lived in Bangladesh, then Egypt, then Virginia for four years, and then Delhi again for my high school. All of those places were home, and none of them were.

My parents' house in Virginia was the longest stretch of home I ever had. But it wasn't where I was from, and it was only home in the sense that my parents lived there. I have zero emotional connection to it.

Third culture kids, I believe, can relate.

When we left Delhi, I lost touch with most of my friends. I was a terrible correspondent back in the mail-a-letter days. In college, I wanted to go back to Delhi, to go "home"--but by then, my parents had moved to Virginia.

Now I've put down roots in DC. We have this terrific house that we've poured all of our everything into. I love our house, and even more, I love that our kids have a fixed place they know is home.

And still, I could walk away tomorrow if we had to.

After high school, Delhi was never home again. But in a small piece of my heart, it will always be.

As the country of my birth, and a country in which I spent some of the best, most important years of my life, India is both foreign to and such a part of me.
Our house in Defense Colony
When I was small, and people asked me where I was from, I'd say, "India." And they'd say, "You don't look Indian."

 This was always true, no matter how much coconut oil I put in my jute-colored hair.

I learned Hindi and English at the same time, and to my ayah's voiced horror and dismay, my mom let me play with the street kids on the maidan, so I had a filthy mouth at age three. I wasn't allowed to go barefoot because, hookworm! But I could run around saying mother f***er in Hindi like nobody's business.

I will be an absolutely tourist. I barely remember any Hindi. In fact, there's a lot I don't remember.

But sometimes I step outside and catch a particular scent, and it is Delhi, or Kashmir. The smell of jet fuel brings pangs of longing for childhood.

I may have weird Proustian triggers, but I know I'm not alone.

And for my 50th, I'm going home.


  1. What a fantastic idea and a great adventure! I think it's wonderful that you're taking yourself on a solo trip to India. (I know what you mean about falling-off-the-chair laughing. When does anyone do that anymore? Not nearly often enough. I'm glad it happened for you.)

    1. Thank you so much, Zandria! I am excited about the idea. I don't know if it will be solo--I now have dear friends who may come along! Which would be super exciting as well. Solo, or exploring old haunts together, it'll be amazing!

      As for the laughter--I know now to appreciate when it happens. Yes, so terribly rare!

  2. I love this. This is going to be so great for you!!!

    1. Thank you, Megan! I might ask you for suggestions, if that's cool.

  3. The talk of never having a "home" called up a memory of your dad. Circa 1995 I was living in Red Lodge Montana and I get a call (Saturday) from, and I think I can still almost quote the conversation, Micheal Jordan.
    I--I knew a Mickie Jordan once. He--That's me. I-- I have lost track of you, it's been a long time, why have you called. He--I have lived in many countries in the world and the same is true of my friends. When I need an anchor I think of you..the only person I know who has lived in the same place for 30 years..More conversation followed ...the remembering brings tears to my eyes. Tom M

    1. Oh my gosh, Tom. This brings tears to MY eyes! I know you were very dear to my dad. I never talked to him about not having "home" or an anchor. In fact, there are so many things we never spoke of that I'm so sad about now. I didn't think about how being rootless was on my parents, because I just assumed, growing up in one place as they each did, that they knew where they were "from"--but clearly this was not so.

      I truly appreciate your memories and would love it if you felt moved to share more. Big hugs, Lisa

  4. There were times I envied your day for his adventurous life. Maybe there were times he envied my sedate life

  5. Oh, poor girl, you asked for it. Betty will tell you at our age the old memories are the best. Your dad and I had some great times together. we were a kind of " mutt and Jeff" combination in humor and pranks. Once when our Pharmacy class was on a trip to Indianapolis to tour the Elli Lilly plant (by train) we were in Minneapolis at a nice restaurant, that is, they had a coat check (pretty classy for a North Dakota boy)..
    After eating we went to the coat check and Micky said "open and close your mouth when I tap you on the back. My mouth worked while his ventriloquism worked. So we tried to have a conversation. Of course I couldn't keep up, lips not moving in sync with the words. The coat check girl was so confused, befuddled, it was hysterical. No chair to fall out of but we (and others) were almost on our knees.

    1. You were in pharmacy school together! I'd forgotten that and thought it was flight school. Wow. So you knew him when he was SO young!

      I love this ventriloquist story. It's so funny!

      Do you have any photos with my dad from those years? I'd love to see.

    2. Yep...So Young, "the good old days" Pharmacy School. I was his pledge dad at Kappa Psi Fraternity, graduated in 1958 (diosaur roomed the earth)
      I've known your mom and dad a long time. Betty and I were both raised in North Dakota (Hettinger for me). I remember sitting around with them and another, Ken Ryan, at the student union between classes. Ken had eyes for your mom but that was going nowhere.
      We had a Chemistry Prof who was a tyrant. Martin Blake --you didn't screw around with Martin Blake. Micky came back to Winter Quarter a week late one year as he had been in Florida working (entertaining) and we had taken a test at quarter s end that Micky didn't get the results of. So he says to Dr Blake.."What grade did I get on that shity test/" (No one talked to Blake like that, Blake answered..You got a shitty grade. and that was the end of that
      After graduation Micky went to flight school. Did he ever tell you how that happened?
      I don't have any pictures of him but some of the ones you have posted look like he did then.

    3. I love these stories! Love love love them! Thank you!

  6. I was going to save this for another time but for my sake I have to voice it.
    After Karen died (November 2005) your dad and I got in touch some how. And he became my "go to" for ranting. Me...people don't know shit about what this is like. Where the hell was God? Taking a coffee break when he should have been watching one of his most faithful? I'm having terrible dreams. What the hell is this thing called heaven? He listened, commiserated and led me thru all that. He was the safe place to "bitch and complain" because he was a good friend and far away, so my friends and family wouldn't know what a wreck I was. Now when I have a friend that is struggling with grief I tell them they need a surrogate like Micky and I will listen if they have no one else. .
    I did come out to visit he and Betty the following year. I spent a couple of days with Karen's niece in Arlington before going to Mclein . He called while I was ad Cindy's (he knew I was going to see her but I hadn't given him any more info than that). I asked how he found me and he said "I still have a few friends to call on". We had a wonderful visit and quality time.I had an energetic Chocolate lab with me and Betty took great care of her (thank you Betty)..they went to the crick and the dog was exhausted when your dad and I would return from an adventure. I knew then that he was seeing a psychiatrist "just occasionally" for a tune up". We (Karen and I) had been in DC before , but this was a most memorable trip.
    You might know we visited them when they were in Peru before Karen died. And he once invited me to join him in Mexico. One of my regrets in life is that I didn't accept.

    1. Tom, these stories are so lovely and poignant. I'm so glad my dad was there for you. I really had no idea the depth of your friendship. I didn't realize that he would talk about emotional things. I know he was a good listener, but I didn't know he talked. I also didn't know you visited in Peru.

      If you think of any more stories, good or bad, please share. I would be so grateful. Hugs, Lisa

  7. Hi! A couple of things... 48 is just a number... you can be any age you want and likely are different ages at different times (of the day even), I know I tend to go from being 16 to being 85 sometimes in the space of the same half hour!
    Also, I completely one hundred percent get the home is home isn't home where is home? feeling. Houston is home for me, but I haven't lived there in 22 years either (though I go back every year), Italy is home, but it also isn't as I've moved around. I could pick up and leave at a moments notice as well... And sometimes I wonder at the simple rootlessness of it all. Over the years though I've started to understand that home is nowhere and everywhere, it's not the place I've lived the longest, or the place I've lived most intensely, or the place where I had my "milestones" or where my family is (because they keep moving around too. It's me. It's where I am. I am home for me. It makes me a little melancholic but also free. Anyway, all this to say, I get it, and I'm happy you're going home.

    1. Hi BB! Ha--you make a very good point! Sometimes I am way younger and sometimes I'm older.
      I am glad to hear you get it, and love how you voice it. Big hugs!

  8. I was born in Delhi too and within India itself Im looked strangely because now I live in Bombay. Visit Chandni Chowk too if you are coming in the winters. In summers you will just turn to kismis.

    1. Turn to kismis! This is so funny! I was originally going to come in August because that's my birthday, and because I could have the kids in camp. BUT, as you point out, that's a hard time to be there. So...I am rethinking the plan. I have two years to make it work!!!


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