On Turning Ten

Thanks to you who have been reading these posts. If you have labored through the last three with T.S. Eliot then I offer you a treat, how about a doughnut and a cup of coffee. Today, I too need a treat so I am turning to poet Billy Collins. On the cover of one of his books, Sailing Alone Around the Room: New and Selected Poems you find a one sentence review from The New Yorker “What Collins does best is turn an apparently simple phrase into a numinous moment” My eldest grandchild will turn 10 in a few months time and we know from memory that trurning from 9 to 10 is such a big deal! However, since then we have known other great birthdays ending in zero, and we hope they continue, perhaps to double zero! Take a joyful moment to remember your own turning from 9 to 10. Where did you live? Do you remember anything at all from those early years? How do you celebrate birthdays today, your own, and those of your family? Remember the scripture – three score years and ten! Perhaps we too often forget the gift of life and all its days. So now with coffee and doughnut enjoy Collins’ words.

“On Turning Ten”
The whole idea of it makes me feel
like I’m coming down with something,
something worse than any stomach ache
or the headaches I get from reading in bad light
a kind of measles of the spirit,
a mumps of the psyche,
a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,
but that is because you have forgotten
the perfect simplicity of being one
and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.
But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.
At four I was an Arabian wizard.
I could make myself invisible
by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.
At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window
watching the late afternoon light.
Back then it never fell so solemnly
against the side of my tree house,
and my bicycle never leaned against the garage
as it does today,
all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,
as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.
It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,
time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe
there was nothing under my skin but light.
If you cut me I would shine.
But now if I fall upon the sidewalks of life,
I skin my knees. I bleed. (from The Art of Drowning, 1995)

Lord God,
“I didn’t choose to be born,
I was too young at the time.”
I am glad I was born
and daily celebrate my birth
and hope it brought joy to my parents.
Today, I marvel at this gift of life,
with all its mixture of joys and sorrows,
hopes and disappointments,
promise and possibilities,
birthdays and anniversaries.
Lord God, hear my prayer of thanksgiving
and remind me daily of this precious gift of life. Amen.

One thought on “On Turning Ten

  1. Wow, doughnuts and coffee! Thanks, don’t mind if I do!

    Oh, I am immensely grateful for the gift of life, and more so each day as I journey beyond my already three score years and ten! It is always a shock to think of the years having passed so quickly and I’m sure you feel this way when you realize your granddaughter is about to reach the decade mark already.

    My memories of childhood birthdays are treasured, not because of grand and elaborate celebrations, but due to simple cake and ice cream, maybe a package from grandparents delivered by the mailman, a couple of friends over and feeling fortunate that I could have those things knowing that some children couldn’t. Each birthday also meant a bit more responsibility, but that was ok. On my 10th, my mother decided that 10 deserved a very special event. I could invite 5 friends, we could dress up in straw hats and tropical clothes and wear paper leis as if we had just arrived in Hawaii. We were rambunctious and happy. My aunt sent me a sewing kit, which I still have today, and still use because all I ever learned was to sew on a button and maybe repair a hem if absolutely necessary. I loved the gift and felt very grown up even if I didn’t learn to sew.

    I laugh on my birthdays, I was not an easy child, and I marvel at my parents’ patience with me in those elementary years recalling the Mark Twain quote: “My mother had a great deal of trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it.”

    So, thanks again for the doughnut and coffee, and the memories, and the reminder of how precious a gift our lives are, even through the challenges.


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