I pulled on the sweat pants our oldest son had discarded and the Mickey Mouse T-shirt our youngest brought back from Disney World and started for the door. I passed the bedroom of that youngest as she sat before her magnifying mirror curling her hair, readying herself for her first day at high school.
She looked at me and said, "Don't jog past the bus stop, Mother," and added, please.
Assuring her that I would most certainly not do that, I went out into the early morning and revised my route. The next day, like the little pig in the story, I got up half an hour earlier and returned to my normal path which does go past the bus stop. As I reached the top of the hill I met another jogger, a woman who does eight miles a day for starters and more if she feels like it.
"What are you doing out here so early?" she asked.
"I had a request . . ."
"Not to jog past the bus stop," she finished the sentence for me. "I got the same thing from my daughter."
My jogging companion is 15 years younger than I. Until that moment I had assumed that the plea from youngest daughter was based on age. I am an Older Mother.
Long before it became fashionable to have children after age 30, I had a first child at 31 and a last at 43 with three more in between. Only the youngest seems to have suffered from the Older-Mother Syndrome. The first sign that she suffered from OMS showed up when we moved to a new neighborhood and she entered fourth grade in a different school. She came home the first day and stood in front of me and asked, "Why did you have me at such an advanced age?"
"Oh, I don't know, it seemed like a good idea at the time."
"All the other mothers are 32 or even younger," she said.
"Bully for them. Haven't you anything better to do than stand around comparing your mothers' ages?"
"Well, then," I offered in what I hoped was a sprightly tone, "knock a few years off mine."
"I can't," she said. "They've seen you."
Then she offered a suggestion. "Why don't you color your hair? You used to."
I had quit coloring my hair partly because I am lazy and got tired of doing it, and partly because it was another chemical intrusion into an already overloaded environment. But what I said to youngest daughter was, "My hair looks blonder from a distance."
Having lost that point she tried another. "You could lose some weight."
That sent me to Diet Center. The biggest fear of any Older Mother, at least from my unscientific survey, is that she will be taken for her child's grandmother. It does happen. A dear friend, also an OM, drove into a service station and in the back seat of the car was her preschooler, jabbering away as usual. As the gas-station attendant began to fill the tank he looked at the child and asked her, "Having a good time with Grandma?"
After she told me that story I planned what I would do if it ever happened to me: I would throw a lighted match at the pump and drive away. In another situation I planned to say, "No, this is my daughter. She is the oldest of 10."
Up until now I have never had to use that snappy comeback, but I fear that time is closing in on me. Another problem I have as an OM is that I am totally out of sync with most of my long-time friends. They all married younger than I did. A lot younger. Some of my contemporaries have grandchildren older than our youngest child.
I haven't even been the mother of the bride, or even the mother of the groom. But I fight back. When my contemporaries bring out pictures of grandchildren, I ask if they have heard the latest Frank Zappa album. When they talk about an upcoming wedding I quote from an article in Rolling Stone. Or Seventeen. I name drop. The Grateful Dead. Cerphe. I complain about how we are the oldest parents at P-TA. I moan about back-to-school night. Makes them think they're missing out on something. It works pretty well. I fantasize about founding a society for OM's. The Sarah Society. I could be president.
The battle, however, is opening up on another front, and I may find this one much tougher. My husband stopped by to pick me up at the nursing home where I work and one of the residents looked at him and said, "Is this one of your boys, Helen?"
Older Wife. That's OW.