I turned 54 today. A full half-century past the perfect age.
That’s right. I said it.
The. Perfect. Age.
A four year old can even read a little, and count, and he’s getting better at both. No, he doesn't read important stuff, or do numbers like telling time and handling money, but then a four year old isn’t expected to do that, is he? You have to be at least eight for that.
At four he’s still at that cute, cuddly stage, that stage when older folks are still willing to do things that are still very much appreciated, like helping with jacket sleeves and zippers, or reaching for treats high up in the cupboard, things he knows he can do himself in a pinch by standing up tippy-toe on a chair or climbing up onto the counter when no one is looking, the kind of help that just months later will be resented as unnecessary adult interference.
At four he will still be picked up and hugged, his head cradled in the bosom of plump, soft-chested relatives, close enough yet to nursing age to appreciate the nostalgia of the moment, young enough to be fascinated and comforted all at once, though not quite mature enough to feel ashamed, or to comprehend that a desperate woman and a cloud of cheap floral cologne is a bad combination.
A young man four years of age is expected to make mistakes, and make messes, and seldom gets yelled at for being inconveniently slow, or clumsy, or socially inept. Those things are all still part of being cute. At that age he can get away with telling little white lies, occasionally even whoppers. And he can always be counted on to drop little gems of bald-faced honesty, without ever having to worry about whose feelings get hurt, because no one’s ever are.
By five all of those advantages have vanished. A five year old is already stuck fast on the educational treadmill, the assembly line of expectation and responsibility, of enforced acquisition of knowledge and skills and material possessions, burdened with the rules and priorities and fears and worries that define the proper adult.
A four year old is free.
That kind of freedom is now just a spot, the tiniest speck, really, a fragment of a memory glimmering fifty years back in my rear-view mirror, along a road that only points straight ahead.
But there’s hope in the future for the over-aged four year old – if he lasts long enough.
If he only holds on, eventually he will be coddled again, cooed over, told he’s cute and cuddly. People will do things for him that he can still do quite well for himself, and he will be grateful for the assistance, and the attention.
He can get away with telling little white lies, occasionally even whoppers. And he can always be counted on to drop little gems of bald-faced honesty, without ever having to worry about whose feelings get hurt, because he doesn't care any more if they are.
His head may even be nestled once again in the fragrant, floral bosom of a desperate woman, and once again a cloud of cheap floral cologne will be a welcome, comforting experience.
So just because I’m fifty years past my prime, I’m headed in the right direction.