My son turned 21 two weeks ago. I'm still trying to adjust to the fact that he is a legal adult. That I'm old enough to have a child that old. I mean, I was his age when I found out I was pregnant with him-- and that was just a minute ago! Nevertheless, the time, it has flown and now he is grown... or is he?
Because when I look at him I see all the ages he has been. I see the infant in the carseat that my husband and I stared down at as we walked in the door of our apartment the day we brought him home. I see the babbling toddler. I see the two year old sucking a pacifier and refusing to nap. I see the 7 year old boy nervous about doing his first play, telling me that the city of Washington is "in his blood." (It still is, by the way-- mothers of young kids, pay attention, all the signs of who that child is going to be are already there.) I see the boy who played baseball and football but still loved acting best of all. I see the teen, acquiescing to pose for a picture as he drove away alone for the first time.
As I've thought about this, marveling over what it means to have a bonafide grown-up for a child, I've thought about myself and how, in a way, I am all the ages as well. Yes I'm a 43 year old mom of six with a writing habit and a busy life. But I'm also the little girl who climbed a mountain on a beautiful spring day and drank from a spring, the water clear and sweet. I'm the sunburnt kid whose father taught her to sail. I'm the preteen who was the first one in my family to discover the newly born calf wobbling around in our pasture. I'm the awkward middle-schooler who thought I'd be stuck with braces and zits forever. I still love Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream from Baskin Robbins. I'm still drawn to water in any form-- river, creek, ocean, lake. I still crave Chef Boyardee pizza. I still lose myself in stories, entering fully into the book I am holding. I still desire blocks of time alone. Though, admittedly, I don't get them all that often.
I think that all the ages are what comes into play as a writer. When I write a character of a certain age-- be it child, teen, student, woman-- I don't just try to remember what it was like. I become that age again, interacting with that character. I become that age because I am still that age, and all the others. (And if I'm writing an older person, I imagine the woman I will be when I get to that point in life, because it is close enough that I have a pretty good idea.) One of the things I love most about writing is the chance to capture some of the good and deal with some of the bad that comes with all the ages. My son is a good writer and I hope someday he'll get to recall all the ages he's been through his own writing. And what he can't recall, I will share, with wonder.