Friday, March 12, 2010

The Beginning of an Era

Peter comes home tomorrow. Lara and I are both agreed that this is going to make our lives immeasurably easier. We've been parents now for 3 1/2 months (longer, I realize, if you count from conception). Still, it feels momentous. From now on, "we" means three of us. I think Lara is more in that groove than I am: she has been at the hospital with Peter far more regularly than I have in the last two months. In the last two weeks, she's spent more nights at the hospital than at home. This much time alone has enabled me to consider our situation, and my dedication to this family, more closely. It's also enabled me to watch some movies Lara doesn't like.

In the last month (it's been a month since I posted last), I celebrated my 30th birthday. This seems like it should be more important. I mean, the 10's digit changed. That's big time. At numerically significant moments like this we humans have a sacred tradition of overreacting. When I turned 10, it was a big deal because I was a whole decade old. Turning 20 was more important to me than 21 because it meant I was no longer a teenager and I wasn't planning on going out and getting drunk. Often, people who have grown up with an unreasonably young concept of where "old" starts get depressed at 30, possibly because they can't think of any other reason it's important when it seems like it should be ("OH NO! I'm THIRTY. I'm soooo oooooold!" - at which point I would like to poke this person in the eye). I've never really felt like "old" started until somewhere around 60, and even then it wasn't "old" as in past the point of usefulness, but "old" as in some parts don't work the way they used to. For me, "old" has never been something to dread, it is simply something that is, and it's only necessarily something that is on the outside. I feel sorry for people who get old on the inside.

Even so, 30 felt significant to me, I think, because it sounds like the point at which full adulthood, along with the associated furrowed brow and weight gain, truly begins. But you know, I still can't really identify with that overly serious worldview that seems to be part of what most people mean by "grow up." If adulthood is anything other than 90% play, I can do without it. I like smiling, running and jumping, playing games, laughing, teasing, and making faces. I still chew bubble gum in order to blow bubbles. I still tend to like cartoons better than anything else. Ice cream is the nectar of the gods. Sure, I fall victim to worry, especially recently. The most tragic thing about worry is how it blinds me to the wonder of the moment. Recently in prayer, I have been frequently feeling the impulse to look around me in child-like wonder. Look! Realize that you're in Edinburgh! Look at the buildings, the roads, the walls and fields. Feel the crisp air and breathe it in! Listen to the sounds! Smell the ... hops (yeah, for those of you who come to visit, Edinburgh has a pretty distinct smell that comes from local breweries). Okay, don't smell the hops, but you're alive, in Scotland, with a wonderful church, getting your PhD, together with your wife, and you have a son who shouldn't have survived the first night! Worry and anxiety, which it sometimes feels is the demeanor expected by small-minded individuals who take themselves way too seriously, shut all that out.

The feeling of significance, of entry into adulthood, may also be exaggerated because this was my first birthday in which I am a parent (which sounds like it should be antonymous with invisible). But the immutably young part of me, the Toys R Us kid, sees that what I've gained with Peter is a new playmate, somebody who will eventually find all my gags fresh and funny (for a while, at least), somebody who will like puns and what I call time bomb jokes (the kind that I throw into a conversation not expecting anyone to get it until later; they're really more for my own amusement). So what is so inherently significant about 30? Absolutely nothing. As I've noted elsewhere, if our numbering system was not based on tens (but on, say, powers of 12, like the Sumerians, or powers of 16, as in hexadecimal numbering in computer engineering), this birthday wouldn't be even have the illusion of significance. What is significant is that here I am at 30, embarking on a totally new journey to a destination I cannot see and have never seen (dangerously overused metaphors acknowledged), and I could not be more optimistic about our lives only getting better and better. God is driving the current and I'm along for the ride. Tomorrow, truly, is the beginning of a new era.


  1. Definition:
    E·ra –noun - a period of time marked by distinctive character, events, etc.

    What a good word choice. Let's see:
    Events - move to Scotland to work on PhD; 30th birthday.
    Character - Peter, who's birthday and homecoming day will most assuredly be the points forever more from which you will mark time.
    Distinctive, check - Peter's birth will be, by far, the most life-changing event you've ever had - more so than marriage or schooling in my humble opinion.

    Enjoy, with the full excitement possible, this new era. Watch Peter's antics instead of TV (why should you be any different from any other parent I've ever known?)Fill your brain with all the theology and obscure Biblical words you can. Look across the room at Lara and marvel that you two should be walking this road together. And have fun in the toy aisle - after all you have a legitimate excuse now.

    I am so happy for you all and will pray that God's blessings continue to flow over Kerry, Lara, and Peter Lee!