“Mrs. Dawn, why are your eyes cracked?” These are some of the first words I heard today spoken sweetly by a direct, rule- governed 4-year old student who is learning to name things simply as they are. Blue things are blue, red things are red, and Mrs. Dawn’s eyes are cracked. Her question seemed to alert two other students nearby to look closer at my face and before I knew it I was kneeling on the floor, eye level with 3 young examiners wishing I had a cup of coffee and thankful it was Friday. Many 4-year-old questions are perplexing at 7:30am but this one surpassed all.
Last week I turned 40; an age I haven’t really dreaded or anticipated. Garrick won the “Husband of the Year” award for surprising me with a trip to Paris and recruiting 6 friends to join us. I am not an extravagant person nor do I expect grand things on my behalf. I did my own hair and makeup on my wedding day and wore birkenstocks my entire college career (and did none of these things to prove a point), so last week’s trip was a completely unexpected and bewitching experience of life changing food and new experiences with old friends. It was the greatest gift anyone could have given me. Upon arrival home, I was too marinated in happiness to realize what had happened and it wasn’t until I had returned to my classroom on Monday that I realized I had indeed just had a birthday. No one knows the day of their death, but I am now 40 years closer to mine. Not a big deal, but still something you ponder in middle age. I feel incredibly healthy and strangely happy, so I haven’t given 40 much thought…until this morning.
“Why are your eyes cracked?” the tiny scholar asks of me in a tone that demands an answer. I removed my glasses and held them up to the light. “These?” I asked her. “No, your eyes” she corrected. It settled on me like a subtle brick and I finally understood. Cursing my skin care products that have apparently failed me and hating the honesty of children, I thought for an answer that might satisfy this child.
I am not quick with number crunching but I recalled a statistic that the average person smiles 50 times per day. This means I have smiled approximately 730,000 times in my life, received an estimated 29,200 hours of exposure to sunshine and the elements, and spent roughly (no pun intended) 23,725 minutes kissing a man with a beard. Not to mention the many times I have been too tired to wash my face at the end of the day, all which ages a person. I looked at this little student and said, “Because, friend, I have lived! When you live, your eyes crack.” She paused for a moment and said, “Oh.” as if that were a satisfactory answer. I couldn’t help but recall the popular phrase “40 is the new 30!” which desperately needs a rebuttal. To the person who coined that phrase….please don’t rob me of 10 years of smiles, 10 years of laughing and crying, 10 years of contributing to my community and growing in wisdom, 10 years of climbing mountains and 10 years of living! With all due respect, I don’t want to be 40 and still 30. Forty is 40 and eighty is 80. I am proud of and will own up to every single crack around my eyes and every single laugh line until my final day.
My student: “Mrs. Dawn, will I get cracked eyes from living?”
My reply: “I sure hope so.”