Tag Archives: turning 60


I wasn’t looking forward to turning 60 and I had this notion, early in the year, to celebrate my 6 decades by doing something that I liked to do in each decade, making a donation representative of each decade and getting back in touch with someone from each decade of my life.  That didn’t get very far, because my actual current life had an annoying habit of interfering.

So, when I thought about turning 60 at all, I still mostly hated it.  There are so many things that I miss about being young.  I miss having smooth skin, and thick, shiny hair.  I miss daily sex.  I miss being able to wear high heels for more than 5 minutes without my feet killing me. I miss my grandparents.  I miss turning cartwheels.

But now that the 60th birthday has come and gone, what I mostly feel is grateful. 60 years were not promised to me on the day I was born.  In 1955, children still occasionally died of measles, chicken pox, mumps, polio.  My best friend and I went through a hitchhiking phase in the 70s.  That could have ended badly.  My bout with breast cancer in 2011 could have ended a whole lot worse than it did.  I grew up during the Cold War, which could have ended VERY badly.

But I survived to live a very ordinary and very blessed life.  I made my career in information management during the adolescence of the Information Age:  I typed my first programs on punch cards, and now manage information living in a vast global cloud.  I’ve been to Paris, New York, London, and Rome, dipped my toes in the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Mediterranean.  I’ve lived in the richest, mightiest nation the world has ever seen, at what was probably the pinnacle of its power and glory.  I wrote a book.  I danced with an Isley Brother (true story).

I have lived to see my children’s children.

I have loved the same man for 37 years. We’ve passed through the stage of joyful lust, the years of blissful, exhausted parenting, and the tensions and adjustments of midlife.  Now we are two survivors, with a one heart attack, one mastectomy and a lifetime of memories between us.

At 60, I know most of my life story.  I can relax a little.  There’s a happy balance between having enough time to want more and being content with what I’ve already had.  After the hot, exhausted hell of menopause, I have renewed energy, but also a new respect for my limits and peace with the many, many mistakes I’ve had time to make in 60 years.  I am a little less eager to please, a little more willing to tell hard truths, but also way more compassionate and tender with the weaknesses of others.  I am completely at ease with other people, can talk to almost anyone, but am perfectly content with my own company, too.

Just as I was not promised the first 60 years, I am not guaranteed another 60 months, 60 days or even 60 seconds.  But, if I’ve learned anything in my 31,536,000 minutes on this planet, it is that, as Peggy Freydberg says (in a poem written when she was over 90 years old!):

We shape the world towards joy

with our dreams of it

For whatever time is left to me, I’m grateful for love and curious about what will happen tomorrow.

An Un-enchanted 1960s Childhood

Many people remember their childhood as an enchanted time.  I don’t remember mine that way at all.  I remember childhood as mostly happy, but not magical in any way.  I had my share of fanciful notions.  I believed in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and the Boogie Man.  I thought the nighttime insect chirpings were the sound the stars made as they shone.  I was afraid of the dark, big dogs, mean teachers and big, mean boys.  But, mostly, my childhood seemed concrete and prosaic.  The predominant feeling was that the world made sense and I could master it.  I was a curious, sensitive, energetic little girl and my childhood was a perfect preparation for a life of action.

Like most children in the 1960s, I spent most of my time outdoors.  From the age of 4, I was allowed the run of our block, and by the time I was 8 I had the run of our neighborhood on my bike.  There were usually other kids to play with, or I would just wander by myself in the woods at the bottom of our hill, feeling like the first person ever to discover the valleys and woodland wildflowers and the little stream.

There were two very large families in our neighborhood and the children of these families dominated and bullied the rest of us.  Social skills were survival skills in that environment, and we learned them pretty quickly.  We learned to decide when to submit, when to fight back, and when to form alliances – and what it felt like both to betray and be betrayed.  I also learned to get on my bike and seek more congenial friends further afield.

We learned co-operation and leadership skills by organizing and playing group games like Red Rover, Statues, Mother May I, Tag, Hide-and-Seek, and Red Light Yellow Light.   We would play until the streetlights came on and we had to report in to our mothers

We were taught at school by dour, no-nonsense, mostly middle-aged, teachers who did not spare the rod.  We learned mostly by rote:  how to spell, how to read, how to do arithmetic, the rules of grammar and later the rules of science.  There was little notion that learning should be fun or entertaining, and group learning would have been considered a form of cheating.  We were well-prepared for a work world that was already rapidly disappearing by the time we reached adulthood: a world where you did what you were told and did the same thing every day for 40 years.

I rarely had trouble sleeping and was hardly ever sick after my tonsils came out.  Middle-class food in the 1960s was pretty plain and unexciting, and I was usually too busy playing to take much time to eat.  So, I wasn’t a big eater, but I was a fast eater.  I didn’t mind being dirty.  It didn’t bother me to go to bed with dust on my legs, dirt under my fingernails, with my arms and legs stinging from cuts and bites.  I was a healthy little animal, nothing enchanted at all, happily fit for a human life.

I’d love to hear from my readers about whether you feel like your childhood felt enchanted.  What era did you grow up in?  How did childhood feel to you.  Leave a reply on the site.

Turning 60 Part One: Childhood

It took me a while to really get started on my project to celebrate each decade of my life.  This little annoying thing called My Actual Life Right Now kept getting in the way.  But I did some fun things over the past couple of months to celebrate the first decade of my life:

1. In honor of my lifelong passion for reading, I donated 5 children’s books to the Grow Up Great book drive at work.

2. I took my mom out to lunch and told her what a great mom she’d been, how she had influenced me, and how her good example has broadened to the people whose lives I’ve influenced.  We both cried.

3. My mom and I took a field trip to the apartment building where she & my dad lived for the first 4 years of their marriage and the first 3 years of my life.  My mom told me some funny stories about myself as a child (for example:  I was a 2-year-old shoplifter.  Did I steal candy like any normal child?  No.  I took a book. Of course).  We both cried again.

4. I did a bunch of things things that I enjoyed doing as a child.  I went sled riding, I took walks in the woods, I re-read my favorite childhood books, and, geekiest thing of all, Al and I went to the town in Minnesota where my favorite childhood books were set.  My very favorite books were the Betsy-Tacy series, by Maud Hart Lovelace.  The books were based on her own childhood in Mankato and you can go there and still see many of the sites mentioned in the book.  Betsy’s and Tacy’s houses have even been turned into a little museum, which was my idea of heaven.  See pictures below.


Here’s my mom in front of the apartment building where she spent her newlywed years.  My dad’s grandfather owned the building at the time.  My dad had lived there with his grandfather when he was in college and later lived there by himself as a bachelor.  This is where I lived until I was 3, when my parents bought the house my mom lives in now.


SONY DSCHere I am in front of my shrine, Betsy’s house.  It is restored to look as it did in 1897, the year the series begins.  We also visited other locations from the stories that are still standing, such as the old Carnegie Library and other friends’ houses from the books.  I loved these books because of the warmth of family life and friendship that they portrayed, the lively characters and the great historical detail about what they wore, what they ate, etc.

I’ll have a couple more childhood blog posts coming up, and then it will be on reading my diaries from my teenage years, all of which I still have.