If I am not the same as I was 20 years ago, I cannot hold back the changes of others or hold it against them. Change is the constant, so now I am molding my children into something awful now so that they will transform into the people I will need the most when I hit retirement. And should that fail, well, I'll be different then, too, and maybe not so concerned with this plague of metamorphosis.
I am mostly worried about who I might become when I'm older. What is that saying? I like what I am, and not what I've done. I am comfortable in my own skin. It feels like ski pants, cool and slick by the fire, warm and dry in the cold. Modern and classic, thin at the waist and wide at the heels. To be honest, the zipper is broken, but that feels right, too. I like what I am, and not what I've done. They do not take too many washings. They really can't be worn day to day. I try to imagine wearing them to work, pretending as though nothing were out of the ordinary. That is what my skin is like. I leave it at home, though it is my favorite thing to wear.
Who was I at twenty? I don't know. I think I was no one. A dumb cane of mute emotions. I was taught to have an opinion, not to form one. Everything offended me, or filled me with awe. It is easy and perilous to fall in love in that state. And wonderful. And sad. It is easy, mostly. What else is there?
I was a ball of tension the last week thinking about our vacation. I internalize all the humiliations and failures that my children might suffer, though I know this is how we learn. And change. I remember learning to ski and falling down the entire mountain while everybody stopped and stared, and they were all pretty adolescent girls the whole way down and some nights I relive this except I'm not wearing ski pants, only the scant protection of my 12 year old skin. Comfortless.
We have to fail. The younger, the better, I think. And be afraid and humiliated and hurt. We arrived at the timeshare and unloaded our things and my son and daughter ran off to the hill, covered in snow and threw caution to the wind. I had told them that when I was a boy in upstate New York we lived near a hill that the army base had bordered every winter with a chicken wire and balsa wood fence to keep us from sledding into traffic. And every year we rammed into the fence again and again and again and again and again until one of us broke through. I remember one year being the first.
Breaking through the fence was not like blowing a stubborn wad of gum through a trumpet into a tantara. Your feet broke through first, the splinters tearing through your pants and socks and drawing blood. The only fanfare was the oohs and high fives of your friends, and awkwardly gloved hands pulling the wire away from your boots. Eventually, the fence was tattered like the broken arms of a forced separation, and one of you pushed all the way through and out onto the icy road. We could see the cars from on top of the hill. We timed our runs accordingly. There are no adults among the world's sledding experts.
The wind flung caution back into our faces. My son broke his arm on his first run down the little hill behind the timeshare, on the twelve dollar disc sled we bought two nights before. All his untouched snowboarding gear leaning against the wall between the bathroom and the master bedroom. We drove down the road to an emergency room in a strange town, like last year when I broke my leg on our camping trip on the Little White Salmon. We were there for hours and hours until my wife's sister and husband arrived, and took turns going back and forth to the store and the room and kept reappearing like the weekly guest stars of an old television series. There were special appearances by x-ray technicians and nursing assistants and ER doctors and receptionists and surgical techs, until it all blended into a wintry palette of memories in the making.
What will we be by the time another 20 years has passed? Broken and reconstructed. For all the changes, I hope we are all the same as we were right then.