Every day after school pick up, my kids and I play the same game. I drive to the mailbox at the end of our street, my daughter hops out to grab the mail for me and then she dumps it back through my open car window and she and her brother race me home. We live about five houses away; it's a short race. But every day, they run like the wind to beat me and my big, heavy SUV. Their little legs pump furiously in the sun, despite already having seven or so hours of busy activity under their belts. Their hair flies behind them in the wind as they run into the afternoon sun's rays. The smiles on their faces are big. Determined to win. Delighted to be racing. He is always trailing just a few steps behind her, but somehow it feels like they are running in tandem. Eyes moving quickly from the road ahead to their running feet and back up again. I always let them win. I hit the gas a little bit around house three just to keep them motivated and then I ease off the pedal as they cruise the corner into our driveway, always declaring their victory with arms above their heads and a "YES!" erupting from their little lungs. They collapse into victory laughter, teasing me for my slow driving, high-fiving each other for another winning race. 10 and 6 and always in first place.
My parents are both 70 now. They walk together every day. My dad goes twice, once in the morning by himself and then again with my mom in the afternoon. They walk the hills by their home, some of the most beautiful suburban streets in the country, I am sure of it. They religiously climb them and descend them day after day (except on Sundays, when my mom prefers to lounge in bed and read magazines...it's her version of church), marveling at the blooming bougainvillea, huffing and puffing a little on the sharp inclines. Pausing to take in the vistas along the way, to remark on something that happened that day with me or my sister or my kids or Trump. Finding their way back home along the familiar streets, sometimes hand in hand, sometimes with my dad just a few steps ahead of my mom. I read a thing the other day about how the decades between 50 and 80 go the fastest. How they feel like seconds, not decades. Time just moves so quickly in that chapter of your life and you need to hold on like never before. I was telling my mom about the article and she concurred. Racing the clock. Racing those seconds. Always in first place, even at your own pace.
I turn 39 today. It's one of those odd birthdays: not a milestone, not particularly young and not particularly old. Just 39. I look at all the things I've accomplished and done in 39 years and I feel proud. My marriage, my children, our home and day-to-day life. I want to celebrate it. Get a facial. Go and read on the beach. Eat my favorite pizza with my kids. Drink a glass or two of rosé. A new chapter will begin, as it always does on this day each year. I sense the next one will not be about accomplishments as much as it will be about living. About seeing places I want to see and doing things I want to do. About being with the people that fill me up and finding the things that do the same. About striving for a little less and enjoying a little more. I know, it sounds cliché for every woman in her late 30s. We all want to do a little less. Slow down. Come in last place some days. Not racing anyone or anywhere or anything. Just take it all in for a couple of years, declaring victory in our own way, readying ourselves for the next lap that lies ahead. It's an amazing race, after all. Every step of the way. I will pick up my kids later. Take them for ice cream. Come home and stop at the mailbox. But maybe, just maybe, today I will let myself win.
*image via Death to Stock photo
*originally published in May 2017