One year when I was young we celebrated my mom’s birthday by
hiking a nearby mountain. Our family has loved mountain adventures since our
beginning, so it seemed like a perfect way to celebrate another good year.
The hike was beautiful and challenging and magical in the
way hours spent in the woods while climbing a slope always are. When we got to
the top we settled on the peak rocks to enjoy the view, eat snacks, and let our
heartrates drip back to resting. Us kids sat down, pulling out our normal fare—peanuts,
bread, cheese, among other easy-to-pack items.
My mom wore a happy smirk as she opened her backpack. First,
she unpack a stack of plates and forks. Then came some bags containing several
layers of chocolate cake. Then came the Tupperware with the sauce for between
the cake layers. And then the whipped cream…She’d also brought sparkling cider.
My mother had secretly packed and carried an entire black
forest cake up the mountain. That’s dedication, determination, and the proper way
to start a new era.
I’m turning 30 this year, so I’ve been thinking about
birthdays a bit because it seems like ending my twenties might be a big deal. I
can’t really think of a better way to nod goodbye to my first complete decade
of adulthood than cake on top of a mountain. There is something about icing
that makes the horizon seem promising and clarifies the path you’ve already
The road between my father’s house and school had a stretch
with small, rolling hills. My father would always speed up the ups so that our
stomachs would drop on the downs of the hills. One day, halfway through the
hills, we got stuck behind a Q-tip (that’s what we called elderly drivers
because all you can see over their car headrest is a white tuft of hair). The elderly
driver was going so slowly we didn’t get to enjoy the hills. My sister and I
My father said, “Do you know why old people drive so slowly?”
“No,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Because time is moving so fast for them that they feel like
they’re moving quickly. Think about it. Each second is a smaller fraction of
their life than yours or mine,” he said. “Time seems to go faster as you get
I shrugged then. But, a decade and a half later, I find
myself wondering why time runs away from me. I sometimes drive slowly because I
feel like I’m rushing even when I have nowhere I need to be. I’ve come to
understand what he meant—each second that passes makes every subsequent second
a smaller fraction of my life. Funny that time, that constant meter we trust to
measure and organize our lives, feels so inconsistent.
When we were young, we usually went grocery shopping with
our parents. When my mom took us, we were always allowed to pick out a treat at
the end to enjoy on the journey home. My sister and I always mixed up what we
got—sometime chocolate, sometimes liquorish, sometimes something completely
different. My mom always got a peppermint patty.
Since becoming an adult, I usually grocery shop alone. I
almost always get myself a treat for the trip home. I still mix it up, but when
I can’t decide I get a peppermint patty.
Not so long ago, I visited my sister in New York City. She’s
lived there many years. She and I are still very close, but our lives have
taken divergent paths. We grow more different as time passes. We went grocery
shopping for snacks during my visit. My sister paid. When we checked out, she
grabbed little peppermint patties for each of us. I guess she chooses
peppermint patties too. It made me smile. We are different and similar, nothing
will change that because we have too many shared roots.