So my 10-year-old granddaughter Angie is sitting beside me as we drive back to Shepherdstown from Boonsboro after returning her younger cousins, Eli and Wyatt, back home after nine hours of merry mayhem. I’m feeling relief. Angie is forlorn.
“Grandy, I’m sad,” she tells me.
Why are you sad?
“Because I’ll be leaving pretty soon.”
After a monthlong visit, she and her twin sister, Paula, will return to Albuquerque next week.
That’s sad for me, too. But you know what? You’ll be starting fifth grade next month. Fifth grade! Imagine that!
“Yeah, I know. I really love school. But then the next month I’ll be 11. And 11 is such a weird age.”
That startles me.
Hey! Are you making fun of me?
Because for the past year I’ve been saying over and over I couldn’t wait to be 72. I didn’t like being 71 because it felt like being 11. I mean, 11 is like limbo.
I’m not sure Angie knows what limbo is, but she agreed.
“Yep. I don’t think I’m gonna like being 11. I really can’t wait to be 12.”
Which confirms my theory about 11. Nobody wants to be 11. But 12? Everybody likes turning 12. It has a nice ring to it. It’s a threshold. It connotes a certain maturity and status. Like 72, I suppose.
So, Angie, why do you want to be 12?
“Because I can do things at 12 that I can’t do at 11.”
I slow down a little and turn the radio off. I’m thinking.
What does New Mexico allow at age 12? What have her parents told her about being 12? What have her peers told her? And more to the personality of this particular and peculiar granddaughter, what has she imagined she can do at 12 that she can’t do at 11?!
What can you do at 12 that you can’t do at 11?
“I can go to the gym with my mom.”
I turn the radio back on, speed up a little and think of all the things I can do at 72 that I couldn’t do at 71.
Lovely. Imagine 12! Approaching 70, what I find myself counting are not the new things I can do, but the old things I can still do! It’s like counting backwards.
I’m just grateful there are no longer things that I have to learn the hard way.
First things I did when I was 12: While my best friend was on vacation, I stole his girl, fell in serious puppy love, got mono, and later that summer poison ivy, which I had never had. Not a banner year, twelve years old; but I learned about the mystery of paying for your sins.
Yes. The magic ages of life’s passages: 12 (?), 16 (driving), 18 (draft age for me when Nam was hot; drinking 3.2 beer in WV), 21 (voting for 18-year olds had already happened; buying booze in VA), 25, (insurance rates dropped). Then nothing until 66 (Social Insecurity and Medicare), 70.5 (IRA disbursements). What’s left?
You’re so right. What comes at age 12? Proto-acne perhaps. And after 70.5? Nothing tangible until 100 when I think you get a free breakfast at Ruby Tuesday’s on your birthday.