Turning Fifty

Christine - Roseville, Minnesota
Entered on February 1, 2009

“It’s great turning old with a friend…you go first,” says the magnet that I tape to Jane’s birthday gift. The gift inside is nicer than the sentiment would imply. A bracelet made of smooth irregular glass beads in shades of blue and green changing color with the light, sits against the box’s black fabric lining.

My childhood girlfriends and I turn 50 this year. That’s an age that makes us pause. When I spoke to Jane earlier today, she said the age leaves her surprised. How did this happen? Six of us are still close. We met at different stages of our childhood. Some of us count 36 years of friendship instead of 42, but we don’t split hairs, more silver now, over the entry date.

We came of age together playing Barbie dolls, meeting at junior high lockers to talk about the boys we liked and passing notes in class before texting was invented.

Remember? Sitting in separate classrooms writing notes with hot pink Flair pens on college-ruled themebook paper while the teacher thinks you’re doing homework? Folding the notes lengthwise once, then again, before bending 45-degree angles until all that remains is a neat triangle that you palm and pass to each other in the hallway between classes? Social networking did exist in the 70’s; it just took a lot more work.

Yes, turning 50 means we remember waiting to use our family’s phone to call each other, and the sound of a needle thrumming on the turntable as the Eagles Hotel California album draws to a close. None of that is relevant now, but each experience, memory and fact binds us as surely as the filament that connects those beads in the beautiful bracelet lying before me.

This I believe: the longer I live, the more I understand that life is circular. The years are smooth glass beads, irregular in shape and changing color with the light. Some years are bigger than others are, some are darker. I can choose to feel weighed down my each new bead on my bracelet, or I can feel more adorned with years, experiences and jewelry.

If I change anything at all, it will be the black lining in the gift box. Silver is more optimistic. And it brings out the highlights in my hair.