The other morning my newly-turned-five-year-old and I were sitting on the couch watching cartoons and eating Doritos while the other half of our family went on a bike ride.
Savvy was singing the Days of the Week song, which is where you just start with Sunday and sing the days of the week to the tune of Oh My Darling Clementine. Try it, it’s catchy.
Savvy: “I know how many days there are. Seven.”
Me: “That’s right!”
Savvy: “And ten months.”
Savvy: “How many years?”
Me: “How many years in what?”
Savvy: “How many years are there?”
This stopped me, mid-chip. It’s such a logical follow up question for a child to ask, I can’t believe I’ve never thought about it before. It gave me a pang in my stomach as I answered, “no one really knows.”
She accepted that answer and we seem to be moving on, but I can’t stop thinking about it. How many years are there? People say “live each day like it’s your last” but to me this sounds as good as getting kicked in the gut everyday. Like, don’t put that kind of pressure on me, you kitschy Hobby Lobby farmhouse wall sign.
Life expectancy wise, I should still have over 50% left of my years to live, but I’ve never really been one to think into the future long term. I suppose that’s what allows me to live in the moment, especially because I’m someone who often finds myself looking back. I constantly tell my children, “don’t wish the time away.” I’m sentimental, nostalgic, and there’s almost nothing I’d rather do than sit with old friends talking about things that happened years and years ago. Many people find this tedious, but to me it’s comforting. There are things that will just always be funny to me, and retelling those incidents and inside jokes makes me laugh all over again, cementing them into the narrative of my life.
I recently watched the Nora Ephron documentary “Everything Is Copy” in which she says one of my favorite lines about life and death:
“It’s very important to eat your last meal before it actually comes up. When you are actually going to have your last meal, you either will be too sick to have it, or you aren’t gonna know it’s your last meal and you could squander it on something like a tuna melt.” – Nora Ephron
In the same way that my stories help explain who I am, I have always turned to songs to explain how I feel. I often play songs from my childhood for my own children. Some they love (Britney) and some they don’t (Tom Petty). But last week they heard the song Seasons of Love from Rent for the first time and they asked me to play it over and over again.
Sometimes the best answer to a question is another question.
How do you measure a year? How about love?