I just moved. My new home is beautiful and new and shiny and smells so good I want to slap someone. I'm glad to be here, but the process is horrendous. I think if Dante had ever moved, he surely would've made it the most vile and feared level of hell. First, there comes the excitement of buying boxes and measuring for fun new stuff. The first few items are always carefully packed with bubble wrap and lovingly laid in boxes secured with packing tape. Books are stacked neatly in bins. Clothes folded and stacked by category. By the end, I wantonly threw things away into construction bags with the wrath of a praying mantis chewing the head off her lover as soon as the mating is over. I gleefully watched as burly junk guys tossed bag after bag into a gigantic truck and signed a check with a flourish to make them take it all far, far away. With each kerthunk of junk, I felt lighter and lighter. I have too much stuff.
I tell myself that I will stop buying crap I don't need, and I figure that'll last about two weeks. By then, I'll have unpacked all the stuff that was spared the furious purge and the memories of the horrors of moving will have started to fade. The kids will wheedle me into buying them trinkets and sporting goods and clothing items. I'll see something shiny and be blinded with desire and make impulse buys of books.
Why do I, and many others, if my informal polls are to be believed, think we need so much stuff? And more and more of it to the point that it takes a week to move a household and half a garage full of trash has to be hauled away? I suppose I'm doing my part to help the economy, but what about the gross overconsumerism (is that a word? I don't really care, because I like it) that seems to overcome me, especially when I get sucked into the shopping vortex that is Target? Do I really need another floaty dress? Another pair of kicky sandals? Knives with adorable patterns on them? Books? Well, of course books. Let's not go crazy. The answer, obviously, is no.
I read a pithy meme (at least I think it was a meme - my daughter says I don't get it) about buying experiences rather than things. I'm trying really hard to bypass the cute plastic summer cup and plate set by telling myself that money could be put into a jar (NOT that adorable one over there with the lemons on it that costs $12.99; one of the MANY lined on shelf I already have at home) and saved up for a fabulous vacation, preferably to Malibu. Ah Malibu... but I digress.
At this writing, I have vowed never to move again until it's into a grave in hopefully 50 or so years. I'm looking around, exhausted, at the boxes still waiting to be sorted and unpacked. And if you see me in Target, eyes glazed over and reaching for Crap I Don't Need, please slap the items from my greedy hands and remind me that it's just something I'm going to have to pack one day.
So I have been feeling decrepit lately, being (gulp) 45 years old and there's no longer any wiggle room to pretend to be anything but (gulp) middle aged. I'm in that weird dimension in which my mind thinks I'm 25 and my body thinks I'm 60. The fact that I often don't know what day of the week it is, but have a savant-like memory for all songs from the 80s, is befuddling and adds to my assurance that I am not young anymore.
In order to combat the inevitable slide down the backside of the hill, I bought some shiny badass roller skates. I've decided to attempt to join the Roller Derby under the name Zelda Hitzgerald because she was nuts as well as literary - something I feel I am as well deep in my soul. To date, I've attended two training camps. I've fallen on my ample rear, learned how to stop, learned how to fall down, and today was ALMOST the Queen of the Rink, which is an awesome game in which babes on skates try to slam each other down and/or out of the rink. I came in second to a young and fantastic skater with ACTUAL DERBY EXPERIENCE. My heart pumped. My hips slammed into hers. But I fell first. Exhilarated, I got back up and we high-fived with our wrist guards, making a satisfying clack. I will win next time, mark my words.
As I write this, I feel my inner thigh and hamstring muscles seizing up and I'm sure it'll be hard to walk tomorrow, but I also felt young for a couple of hours as I skated. I wasn't the fastest or best person there. I wasn't the cutest or thinnest or bravest. It took me back to weekends spent as a teen at United Skates of America, when I WAS some of the above (namely, fast, skinny, and brave). I had outstanding blue tennis shoe skates with yellow stripes, short shorts with rainbows on them, and a comb in the back pocket. Out on the wooden floor I felt free. I could skate forwards and backwards and squatted down with my leg straight out front. I could do the hokey pokey and moonlight skate with sketchy boys from other schools. And I could do all of this without a sore lower back, a weird tingling in my knees, and fingernail sensitivity. I do get to use a bubblegum flavored mouth guard now, though.
The thought of aging is awful and not awful at the same time. I think we all try to capture some of the greatness of youth, but there are so many things I would never want to relive (like acne, no one asking me to the prom, and the general awkwardness of being a weird kid in a normal world). One blessing of getting older is realizing that time is not infinite. I know I don't have forever spreading out before me like I thought I did when I was 15. It's important to try everything under the sun before I can't. My sad, deteriorating body isn't what it used to be, but it's still functional (well, mostly), and I need to enjoy it while I still can.
I may never be invited to join the derby officially. I may never get to experience the thrill of body slamming some young thing in a bout. Zelda Hitzgerald may never be more than a fun little fantasy I live out every few weeks. But when I actually am old and my body actually can't do the things I want it to anymore, I can look back and laugh at old Zelda and be glad she existed.
Courtney is a most fabulous writer and teacher of gifted middle school students. She is the author of two novels - see the "Cate Books" page of this site for information! Watch for updates about future books that need to be part of your personal library. In the meanwhile, enjoy her pithy life observations.