April 2018

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Not "The Kid" anymore

My department chair, Christine, called me “Kid” when I was teaching in my first school. I was 22 years old. Most of my colleagues had lived at least twice as long as I had. I had to convince the lunchroom ladies every day that I could have two milks, a privilege not available to students but reserved for faculty. (My students in line with me would taunt, “Nah! She’s not a teacher!”)

In class, I would joke about how old I was, and the students would laugh with me. When I requested papers from my seniors one day and my unusually hairy student Ben didn’t have his, he said to me, “I’ve dated girls older than you.” (My retort: “I don’t date boys your age. Bring your paper tomorrow. It will be late, and if you don’t have it, I’ll need to call your parents.)

When Ann and I got together eighteen years ago, she was twenty years my senior. (She still is.)

This year, I’ve started attending “Silver Sneakers,” an exercise class for seniors and me, all of whom need to sit in a chair to keep our balance while we exercise. Here, I'm still "the kid." 

I have thought of myself permanently as the “kid,” but apparently time doesn’t work that way.

About a decade ago, I made a joke about how old I was in one of the high school classes I was teaching. Nobody laughed. Awkward.

Last week, I met with a group of young adults from our church to begin a book group around a text about race and spirituality. The group had been advertised as open to people between 18 and 41 years of age, but then they opened it up and said I could come even though I’m seven years too old.

My friend Elizabeth missed the cut-off, too, and they also let her join.

As I sat on Annie’s couch in her and her husband Robbie’s hip artist’s loft, I ate my soup, and I felt older than those around me. I had to work to balance my soup in my lap and not to shake when I moved the spoon to my mouth. The others balanced and spooned easily, laughing familiarly with one another.

As we introduced ourselves, I felt older again. How had each of us found our little progressive church? I realized that Ann and I found the church while these nice people were in elementary school. 
The others talked about experiences they’d had in their twenties, and the way those experiences led them through the church door:

Annie had returned from a year in El Salvador and was church shopping. When she saw the Salvadoran cross and the Romero poster, she decided she’d stay. (Once, during a meeting that Ann was facilitating about our relationship with a small town in El Salvador, Annie turned to me and said, "Your partner rocks." High praise, indeed.)

Kara found the church when she was late for her parents’ church and was walking in her parents’ neighborhood. She came in and decided to stay. 
Her husband Brandon visited and Jim, the minister at the time, invited him to go jet-skiing, so Brandon stayed, too. (Ahem, Jim…You never invited me to go jet-skiing. I thought we were buds.)

The group’s other Southerner, Hadley, heard the multi-racial Total Experience Gospel Choir from the street, and came to see what was going on. She cried as she witnessed the scene of people of many races singing together (and was surprised the next week when our less diverse choir sang instead of our visitors.)

A younger Mary introduced herself as "the other Mary." Because our church has so many Marys and Marie's, however, we started numbering ourselves for our Salvadoran friends who had difficulty keeping us separate in our emails.

I told the younger Mary, "I'm Mary #3," so she said, "I'll be Mary #4, then."

She could not be Mary #4. Number four is Mary Fry, who thinks she's #1 but is really #4. There's also already a #5 and a #11, but the numbers in between # 5 and #11 are available. Younger Mary will be #6.

I felt more a part of the group and less aware of my age as we began reviewing the books.

As the books were introduced, Hadley said, “I love books!” Choosing one, she massaged the book’s cover and said, “This book has a friendly cover.”

“Ah, a young adult soul mate!” I thought. “There are geeks here, too!”

A deep analysis of the texts continued.

Elizabeth shared, “This is my favorite book. I’m not sure why. She [the author photo] looks happy.”

Chris, another soul mate, I suspect, said, “I like the black and white ones. They look academic.”

I think it was Kara who shared her more sensitive side: “This is the one that made me have feelings.”

We finally chose a book that might appeal to our intellectual, emotional and tactile selves: Becoming an Anti-racist Church, and set our agenda for the next meeting: a Friday.

I was impressed that these young adults would choose to attend a book group on a Friday night: definitely geek soul mates.

Since we’re going to meet on Fridays, my partner Ann can join us. I may not be the kid anymore, but I won’t be the elder, either. That role will fall to Ann.

I’ll be the middler. I’m cool with that. (Or maybe I should say hip…or filthy…or even better, hella-filthy.)

Then again, since this is a church group, and I’m a responsible middler, I’ll say hecka-filthy.

I’m no old dog. Though I can’t run with the pups, I look forward to learning with them and to connecting with this generation.

As the Star Wars’ wrinkled green guy said to Count Dooku and thus to me: “Much you still have to learn, my old padawan. This is just the beginning.”

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