Then something happened. While chatting with one of the other mothers at my daughter's preschool, I casually mentioned that I'm about to turn 47 and, naturally, stood back, waiting as usual for the shock and awe to set in. Only it didn't. Perhaps she was distracted. Perhaps she didn't hear. "Yep," I went on, "the big four-seven...can you believe it?" She didn't appear to have any trouble believing it. I searched for an explanation: Isn't this the same mommy who forgot the class snack? Didn't she inadvertently kill her kid's radish-plant-in-a-Dixie-cup project? Perhaps she's a teeny bit deranged, I reasoned and wrote the whole thing off as an isolated incident.
Only it wasn't. Over the next few weeks, it happened again and again...and again. My date of birth came as no surprise to the new dentist. The woman who renewed my passport didn't give it a second thought. My mother actually changed the subject. Soon I began desperately shoehorning my age into even the most mundane exchanges, hoping against hope that I would once again hear all about how young I look. Only I didn't.
The Butcher: "Should I bone the chicken breasts?"
Me: "You know, I'm not exactly a spring chicken myself."
The Butcher: Odd grunting sound coupled with cold, dead, heartless stare.
Me: "I mean I'm practically 47...can you believe it?"
The Butcher: "I'm leaving the bone."
Me: "My grandma always looked good for her age, so I guess..."
The Butcher: "Next."
There comes a moment when you know that your face has changed; when that effortless glow you always had going for you suddenly requires serious effort. For me, that moment came on the fifth of August at 4:13 p.m., Eastern Daylight Time, while buying a pound and a half of chicken breasts at Simchyk & Sons.
The thing about being young, or at the very least, looking young, is that you honestly think you'll live forever. And the thing about not being young is that it finally dawns on you that you won't. I stare into the bathroom mirror as my fingertip traces a fine line in my forehead that I swear wasn't there yesterday, and just as sure as I know I was born, I now know that one of these days I'm going to die.
It saddens me that unlike Leona Helmsley, I do not have a yappy little Maltese dog to whom I can bequeath my vast fortune. It further saddens me that unlike Leona Helmsley, I do not have a vast fortune. Still, I've got stuff...not good stuff, not giant-flat-screen-TV, fabulous-shoe-collection, secret-family-recipe, antique-emerald-brooch stuff, but stuff just the same. So without further ado, here is my last will and testament, or as I like to call it: a place for my stuff.
I think my long-suffering assistant, Polly Brewster, would agree that I became a much better boss right around the time she repeatedly began asking if I'd seen The Devil Wears Prada. But as I look over at Polly proofreading one of the 11,000 essays I've written to get my daughter into a decent kindergarten, I realize it'll take more than a Banana Republic gift certificate at Christmas to secure a permanent place in her heart. So, Polly, I offer you all the office supplies (including but not limited to stapler, tape dispenser, Post-it notes) you can get your hands on before somebody points out that they belong to the company.
I remind my dearest friend, Brenda Josephs, of our Sunny von Bülow pact: If ever I end up in some kind of irreversible coma, I fully expect you to come by every few weeks and pluck any unsightly facial hair that might spring up. I'll be surrounded by doctors, so for God's sake, Brenda, throw a little lip gloss on me, and by all means, help yourself to my Partridge Family albums.
I would like to leave Johannes Labusch (the father of my child, the light of my life, the low-fat vanilla yogurt of my blueberry parfait) the freedom to remarry after I'm gone. I'd like to do that, but technically, my darling, you never did marry me. A minor detail, really. You go right ahead and buy that ring, rent that tuxedo, introduce your great-aunt Elfie to your brand-new in-laws. I have but one request: Do not under any circumstance have sex with this woman. Or if you must, let it be with the understanding that I will poltergeist you to a degree that makes The Amityville Horror look like The Sound of Music.
Last but never ever least, I leave my lovely and amazing daughter, Julia Claire, and the most beautiful boy on earth, Julia's half-brother, Jonathan Anteo Labusch, the comfort of shared experience and unwavering friendship, because honestly, that's just about the only defense against the world's darkness that I know of. So, Julia, you get Jonathan, Jonathan, you get Jules, and as long as I'm on a giving streak, you guys both get my favorite quote from the book we were reading last night when one of us (okay, me) fell sound asleep. I'm hoping that if you don't quite trust me on this, you'll consider taking Christopher Robin's word for it just the way that Pooh did: "You must remember this: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." And, if you'll permit me one final piece of advice: See if there's any way you can make friends with Leona Helmsley's Maltese.
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