May 2019 . . . .

“Anniversary Issue”

We’re all a little heavier, or lighter, or grayer, or not gray anymore at all. Puffier around the eyes — sixteen years will do that to you, or a bit stockier, or bent over, or achy, or not so as you’d notice. Can’t run quite as fast, or long, touch those toes. Sixteen years will make you sad that they’ve gone by, and happy that you’re done with them, that you can begin the next, and the next after that.

Sixteen years! That’s a new two-door coupe driven every day to the grocery, to work, to school, regular oil changes and tire-rotations, then sold to a young couple who need a second car because they’ve got a child on the way, and they use it to get to work and the grocery (at night because that was the last diaper in the bag) and then to the park to play in the sandbox, and then to preschool, then they sell it to parents who want a banger for their teenager who’s about to get her license — thanks, mom and dad! — and she drives it to school, placing it every morning way out in the safest section of student parking because she’s seen the dings other kids’ doors and quarter panels have. And she fills the back seat and trunk with all of her stuff when she goes off to college, the happy blue and white “Congraduations!” paint still leaving a little ghost on her back window. She hands it down to her “little” brother when she lands that first big job in Boston — it’s OK, really, either she’ll get a new car or live in the city and learn the MTA by heart. And nowadays he’s still puttering around under the hood with the timing belt and sparks and such.

Sixteen years and what do you get? A lot of reading — a whole lot of reading — and writing, to say thank you, and please, and no and yes, and wait .  .  . what? What is that word supposed to be? And before you go is this what you meant here? And some giggling amongst friends. Sixteen years is so many sunrises and sundowns that it’s just silly to count them — each sunup joined to the light of the computer monitor and that same screen being the last glow before going to bed. Sixteen years is a fair few gallons’ worth of coffee, in one or maybe two cups per day, mind, but there’s lots of coffee and always room for more. It’s also a new desktop computer, and then a laptop on the side for getting away from the desk and the office and out onto the porch to read and type. Sixteen years is two different operating systems and a crashed hard drive and learning how to replace a crashed hard drive. It’s wiping the hard drive clean of viruses and replacing it with Linux. It’s two printers, three mice, a few hundred reams of paper, seven bookcases, three web-developers, four website-makeovers. It’s a lot of meetings and that means a lot of burritos (and who’s hurt by that?)

Sixteen years is a lot of embarrassing mistakes, and some fortunate errors. It’s proofing and going to print and finding a boo-boo after and deciding it’s like those flaws in a Kilim carpet that are there on purpose. It’s layout and tweaking and acceptance and rejection. It’s strategy and tactics and give and take and taking the bull by the horns and playing well with others. It’s the happenstance and kismet and serendipity of life. It’s a lot of luck and much sweat equity. It is love and wonder and curiosity and coercion and frustration and passion and patience and Girl Scout cookies and queso, only not together — never together — and it’s laughing out in front of the coffee shop which is your coffee shop and people come by and say hey there, because you are a fixture there as much as the graffiti and the wireless password and the duct-tape-repaired chair seats.

Sixteen years? That’s a career, a good long one, in the bigs, then leaving to polite applause while you can still wallop the long ball — sock it a country mile. It’s a millimeter of calcium-carbonate, calcite, deposited on a stalagmite deep in a cavern in Kentucky. It’s ten feet of volunteer jackstraw pine height, over by the edge of the yard where you never mow. It’s time to replace the roof. It’s I still love you even though we’re both a little long in the tooth. It’s a child’s whole life in school, now ready to go to university and do .  .  . something creative. Study writing, maybe. Poetry, even. God, I hope so.