Outta My Yard


By Elizabeth Peavey
By Elizabeth Peavey

The Old Folks At Home

I don’t always have a lot of spare time for recreational reading – what with all my deadlines and domestic responsibilities (I actually fired the hose on a young squirrel this morning; this crop does not fear humans!) – but I did take a look at Sean Wilkinson’s most recent column in The Bollard today. It concerns how, at his advanced age of 28, he is noticing a bit of slowing and dulling down in his person.

Excuse me, Sean, but I own old. I invented old before I was old, which was a very long time ago. So, as the grande dame, the dowager, the veritable queen mother of The Bollard, I would like to offer up a little sage wisdom to you about what it means to be truly old.

First, Mr. Wilkinson (that’s how the aged address the young), a joint checking account and a minivan do not represent the benchmark of adulthood. While they do represent a lot of things – the death of one’s soul, for example – they do not mean you have grown up. I am 47 years old, have been married for nigh seven years and do not, and never have, had a joint checking account. My husband and I do not even use the same bank. Further, we have only recently started commingling our laundry. But more on that in a moment.

Sean, I am going to pass along a little secret here that will help you out down the road. The benchmark of adulthood is not a vehicle or a banking product. It’s – take this with the solemnity with which the word “plastics” was uttered in The Graduate – real estate. (If you need clarification on this, you’ll find it my 23 prior columns.)

I’d like to clear up some of your other misconceptions on aging. You state: 

Struggling to stay awake for a movie past 11 p.m. is something I used to laugh at my parents for. 

An early bedtime does not imply advance age. My friend Molly goes to bed at 7 p.m., and she’s only two years old, for crying out loud.

Multitasking is not a word that evokes youthfulness. 

Hand-eye coordination is the first to go. I have to now first drink beer, then write this column, when I used to be able to do both at the same time so easily just days ago.

I’ve resorted to comparing myself to others. 

Another bit of advice. Never compare up. Don’t look at the guy who seems to be doing OK for himself. Check out the guy in his 50s with the giant broken blood vessel in his eye, drunk at the Brunswick in OOB at 1 in the afternoon, trying to hit on a chick he can’t quite focus on. Get it? You’re doing fine for yourself.

I figure I can milk another two years or so of this business before I actually need to come up with the Millionaire Plan.

Sean, the Millionaire Plan never works out. Start collecting Pirates of the Caribbean action figures in their original packaging now. Collectables – they work out. (I know this from watching Antiques Roadshow, a program you will someday be devoted to.) It’s either that, or real estate. And trust me, the former’s easier.

I enjoy consuming books at high rates of speed like the older people in my life always have. 

Just wait till the eyes go, kid. My two-month-old prescription for “progressives” (a kinder way of saying trifocals) remains lodged in my wallet. 

I enjoy the slowly learned art of moderation. Seven years ago, if someone told me drinking as much beer as possible before the keg ran out was a bad idea, that person was a dullard in my book.

You will never outgrow the pleasure of the keg. You just become a little more pathetic in doing so. (See “drunk at the Brunswick,” above.)

I enjoy having a bank account that doesn’t overdraft weekly. That fits in nicely with the whole Millionaire Plan. 

Just wait until you buy a house, my young friend. Just wait until you buy a house and everything costs a thousand dollars.

And when am I supposed to get used to the idea of doing laundry?

Just when you thought there could be no upside to getting older, here’s the good news: One of the greatest pleasures I have found in home ownership is – I kid you not – doing laundry. That’s right, Sean. I love doing laundry. After all those years of apartment dwelling, I love having my own washer and dryer and not worrying about whose cootie-pants had previously been spinning there. I love the little shelf in my laundry room (my laundry room), where the detergents – both powdered and liquid – are lined up with the bleach (I own bleach!) and the bottle of hydrogen peroxide (mixed with Dawn, it lifts red wine stains out of fabrics like magic!) and the dryer sheets I will not let John use because I swear I can feel their chemically fibers crawling all over me. Still, it seems a shame to throw them away, so there they sit.

But let me tell you what I really, really love, and that is hanging my laundry out on the old-timey clothesline – the kind that looks like it’s suspended between two junior telephone poles – in our backyard. I love putting sheets out on the line in winter, even though they freeze and I have to karate chop them to get them back in the laundry basket and then finish them in the dryer. (I actually finish everything in the dryer, just as a precaution against critter stowaways). I love hanging out John’s shirts (even though he prefers them in the dryer) and fumbling the clothespins in my unnimble fingers. And I love having something productive to do to kill time when I am on deadline and should be working. Laundry, Sean, is the road to later-life Bliss.

What happened to the days of leaving my dirty clothes in a pile in the bathroom and finding them folded on my bed a day later? 

Find yourself a nice (or not so nice, by squirrel standards), work-at-home, underemployed freelancer to share some real estate with and just watch the clean dainties stack up!

He concludes by saying:

It’s nice to be so mature. It’s liberating to wipe my own ass, finally. 

Enjoy it while you can, Sean. Because the alternative is coming round the corner sooner than any of us would like to think. 

And those are mature words of wisdom to live by.

Elizabeth Peavey, whose column appears here biweekly, knows you are but what is she?