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“Now You Guys Are Old”
Parents’ nostalgia prompts trenchant quip
Laurea and I sometimes talk about the sort of Peter Pan effect that comes with growing up and growing older in New York City. The city is designed to keep you feeling as if you’re roughly twenty-six years old for as long as you need to be, offering a more or less constant stream of activities and communities to serenade you with an endless song of your own youth. Drink! Eat! Dance! Run! Travel! Rent! Gossip! Wake up late! Work at startups! Play difficult video games!
I’m not saying that having a kid ends that, per se, but it does make the illusion more difficult to maintain. Early morning wake-ups put a damper on late-night karaoke. The fear of distant college tuition payments makes one’s career decisions more conservative. Air travel is 50% more expensive with a kid, and mild cases of dysentery that one might write off as an adult induce more dread when one contemplates caring for a kid with travel-related illnesses. Don’t even get me started on the gossip.
It’s all fine and well to reminisce, of course. Laurea and I did have all that, and those experiences are fixed in our memories forever—they got us to where we are, and Kina is a direct result of our having lived them. We’ve largely gotten over the loss of our dear Peter Pan, and so we don’t talk about it much, but we started explaining to Kina last night how her Mommy and Daddy had lives before she came along—how they used to fly all over the world and go out all night with friends (friends who now also have kids and bring them to the beach so we can take turns watching them while the others take naps on the sand). I don’t know what we expected Kina to say, but she sort of glazed over a bit, took a bite of her breakfast, and delivered a fatal zinger.
“And now you guys are old,” she said, leaning back in her chair to demonstrate her supple joints and carefree mindset, growing up in a city that will sing her a song of her own youth forever and ever, if she plays her cards right. If I listen carefully, I can hear just a bit of it myself. That should keep me happy, at least until my ears give out, old man that I am.