Lois Greene Stone, writer and poet, has been syndicated worldwide. Poetry and personal essays have been included in hard & softcover book anthologies. Collections of her personal items/ photos/ memorabilia are in major museums including twelve different divisions of The Smithsonian. The Smithsonian selected her photo to represent all teens from a specific decade.
Might I say two thousand and twenty, instead of twenty-twenty for this new decade? The combination has me pause with the bookend-like appearance of both together. Numbers aren't important I’ve been told, but emotionally I am affected by this transition. Lives ARE recorded by mathematical symbols: telephone, house address, social security, license plate, birth, death, credit cards. Divisions of our existence are defined numerically with meaningful days celebrated by specific dates. Eligibility to vote, marry without parental permission, obtain a driver's license, donate blood, join the armed served, retire by requirement, become president, for examples, depend upon arithmetic.
I turned twenty the April of my junior year at undergrad school; my forty-five year old father died in May. Why couldn't I have known, decades ago, that forty-five was not old? It sounded old when I hadn't lived enough years to, then, register to vote. As age nineteen exited, so did an ‘innocence’; life now also meant death.
Recognition regarding the thirty-two years my mother had been a widow required a different perspective once I married and had offspring. Without companionship, she alone educated her daughters, learned to manage financially, made weddings, sold a house, moved across the country, endured operations plus heart attacks and open-heart surgery, closed an apartment door daily to prepare meals for one, died from contaminated blood received during surgery yet never said 'why me'? My mother watched annual numbers increase without a husband's gentleness, support, reassurance, yet projected only enduring unselfishness and consideration for her children. Numbers: her birth and death dates, years of widowhood, street address, zip code, total grandchildren.... Had this been me, would I have had that strength? Did she realize she possessed such?
The 2019 calendars are crumpled into waste paper. Time, I understand, really is precious. I will internalize how affected I am seeing two ‘twentys’ being written out, or staring at me from my wall calendar reminding me of my own number when I learned that loved one’s lives aren’t to be taken for granted.
But ‘exit 19' is also an age, and not just the now-obsolete calendar decade. One's own life matters to an individual losing the title ‘teenager’: career and professional opportunities are ahead. Twenty 'tells' each that responsibility is within view. Parental obligations to help offspring become independent, self-sufficient, and sensitive adults are abstract, general. The shedding nineteen year olds seek identity, self-esteem, respect, an opportunity to be of value to humanity, earn a living, reproduce, share private thoughts with a person who'll trust each with his/hers.
Numbers. Class of '2024, sports scores, repair ticket, clothing size, body weight, digital pieces, price tags, speed limits, carpet footage, tire size, light bulb wattage, place in a waiting line.......
horses and pink barrettes