There are some good parts of getting old. Surprisingly, it’s not old lady hair, sore hips, or sporadic visits from the Forgetter Fairy. She’s the little critter who waves her wand at crucial moments, leaving you open-mouthed, searching for the memory you could find with ease on that other day. That other day that you can’t remember either.
No, getting older is good because it allows you to understand this troublesome thing called wisdom. A construct surrounded by myths. When I was younger, I imagined wisdom bestowed itself like grace. Like sunlight on a winter afternoon, pale gold, slanting, faded. Broken by leafless trees.
Nope. Wisdom means knowing more than you knew you knew. (That was really clear, huh?)
Wisdom comes from plainly and simply doing the same things over, and over, and over again. In time, patterns emerge. You say, “Oh, I see!” You won’t even know what you know until you know it.
Wisdom doesn’t read itself into your mind like a book. It wanders in and waits.
23 years ago I was pregnant at the first Thanksgiving in the first house I ever owned. The Forgetter Fairy doesn’t even attempt to mess with with my memory of the pregnancy test. In those days a little tube would turn pink. Funny how you can doubt the meaning of pink those early mornings when you hope. But pink was pink. Something wisdom also teaches you but I was not wise then. Only happy.
Come Thanksgiving, two weeks after my debate with pink, I wanted to make sure that dinner would be eaten with things that glittered, and clinked, and settled. I had more than enough plates, glass, silver. Except. My father had handed over one of the sets of family china, lacking a gravy boat. Fancy silver gravy spoon, monogrammed with initials of some generation or other? Yes. Somewhere to put gravy? No. What to do? The china pattern, (Lenox, trivial but just as true) had been discontinued. Fortunately, classic white plates with gold banding reinvent themselves through the decades. I found something similar.
To get the gravy boat by Thanksgiving I had to go to Macy’s shipping facility in San Francisco. I drove up to the Potrero Hill section of the city. Felt like the middle of nowhere. Walked into the customer service entrance. Around the corner from the loading dock. Looked more like an auto body shop than anything to do with gold banded gravy boats. Walked up to the window. Yes, there was a window. Gave the woman my information. When she handed me the box, I just couldn’t keep my secret any longer. “Thank you,” I said. “This is my first Thanksgiving. And I’m so excited – I’m pregnant.”
“Oh honey, congratulations!” The woman was happy for me. She smiled broadly. Added some words on my future, on how children were a blessing. Those I do not remember. Only the feeling of joy, the smile on her face and clearly on mine. Saying this astonishing thing out loud. Dirty white paint on the walls and service window counter. The shape of the gravy bowl. I said my goodbyes and drove back home.
I tried so hard, when I was young, for perfection. I didn’t know that some things are given to you perfect in their native state. And perfect doesn’t mean perfect. Wisdom is lit by sheer accumulation of knowledge, pinpoints of knowledge, fireflies in a New Jersey summer. It’s an understanding of just what in those little stories of your life was truth. What matters. I didn’t need to try so hard.