I’m writing this on my 40th birthday, and it’s been a really fun day. I always like birthdays. I especially love getting to hear from and get caught up, once again, with family and friends. Even on a birthday such as this – one which carries with it such an increasingly large, round number – it’s all the more special to hear from those who’ve walked a lot of my past with me, and, together with them, to remember and celebrate and look forward.
Today, I’ve been trying to figure out if forty years is a long or short time.
On the one hand, it doesn’t really feel that long – and, no, this isn’t my way of deluding myself. It’s simply flown by, and I’m shocked that it came so quickly!
But, on the other hand, forty years does feel kind of long. Like that ancient biblical number which indicated ‘fullness’ or ‘more than sufficient time’, forty years is a good long chunk of time. I’m a father now, for instance, and I constantly find myself comparing my experience growing up and that of my daughter’s. Looking back over my childhood, I see things that I took for granted and which my parents, as young parents themselves, also took for granted but which, today, have completely and totally changed. The Catholic parochial school in my neighborhood, for example, sent the kids home every day for lunch, fully expecting that someone – most likely, the mother – would be home and cooking a homemade meal. Talk about a cultural shift! Church attendance and church membership were still pretty strong and compelling cultural forces forty years ago, and I can’t remember knowing anyone in my neighborhood who didn’t attend church, at least somewhat regularly. My home television set – the only one in our house, mind you – was black-and-white until I was, maybe, eight or nine, and there was no internet, no wireless, no iPad.