I’m not bothered by most big number birthdays.

30, 40, 50 – none of them bothered me a bit.

I was very sad on my twentieth.

It was my junior year of college. I was concentrating in Math and Theatre with an Education certificate.

Theatre was fun.

Teaching defined me.

I had hoped I might get somewhere as a mathematician.

I don’t know if I had read it somewhere or I just knew it – but I had the idea that if I hadn’t amounted to¬†anything in math by age 20, I never would.

I suppose my professors could have told me that years before.

Perhaps it was that I was taking abstract algebra. The Norwegian Abel had died at age 26 and Galois was killed at 20.

While the Nobel prize tends to be given to older people – with no medal for mathematics – the Fields Medal goes to mathematicians who are not yet 40.

For whatever reason, I knew on the eve of my twentieth birthday that I would never be much of a mathematician.

On the one hand, it was ok. I really wanted to shine as a math teacher. But, I also wanted to bring together the worlds of math and math education and thought mathematicians wouldn’t listen to me if I wasn’t also one of them.

Age twenty I looked at my past, assessed my present, and considered my future.

It was the only birthday I remember being sad about and feeling old.


Maggie turns twenty today.

For weeks she says she feels really old.

For weeks people have told her to shut up.

Kim and I went to see Maggie play in a Rugby tournament this summer and afterwards the three of us stopped at a Waffle House.

On the way, Maggie complained about some pains in her legs and mentioned how old she was getting – you know, almost twenty.

At the Waffle House our waitress was very friendly. When I went up to the counter to pay, she was complaining about how old she was. She’d already pointed to the window where her eldest child had wiped his butter filled hands and left prints.

She complained about how old she was getting. Not in a way that was fishing for a “oh you look great” complement. I think it was more that she saw herself in Maggie and remembered how not long ago she was twenty and carefree and now she had a husband and kids and was working six days a week.

She was a wonderful waitress. Once she got the feel that we didn’t mind, she pulled up a chair and chatted with us for a while.

We were the only customers in the place.

The other waitress had seated us and chatted with us until our waitress finished her break.

The cook came out to make sure we’d enjoyed the meal he cooked.

And our waitress was feeling old. She said she was twenty-eight.

I handed her her tip at the cash register and went back to our table.

I told Kim, “she’s feeling old. I told her not to tell you.”

Kim said, “please. She could be our daughter.”

Maggie is twenty today. She’s feeling old.

It could be the way we count in english.

Twenty is when we start putting the decade before the rest of the number. Nineteen sounds way younger than Twenty-One.

Kim’s mom said something about Maggie being so young. I reminded her that by the time she was Maggie’s age, she was married and already had had Kim.

So young. So old.


Exactly one week after her mom’s funeral.

Exactly two weeks after her mom’s accident.

It sounds silly to wish her a happy birthday – but I do anyway.

I hope as she examines the present and remembers the past that she can still see a future where she can be happy and do good things.

I thought my twentieth birthday sucked.

I imagine Maggie will remember her twentieth birthday for a long time.

Make a wish baby.

Don’t say why bother.

Make a wish.

Published in: on September 2, 2016 at 9:35 am  Leave a Comment  

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