JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools

pictures and stories from the water’s edge

JulieLeung.com: a life told in tidepools header image 2

Feeling my age: thoughts on the turning

March 11th, 2005 · 8 Comments


When the girls saw my old toy excavated from the closet during a recent cleaning expedition, they asked: “Do you have any more CDs for it?”

Last year, I gave the kids the boom box I had bought for college. It’s now 17 years old and finally stopped playing tapes this past week. The loss of my college stereo highlighted the changes I’ve seen in my lifetime. When I was my daughters’ ages, my siblings and I danced and sang along to Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street tunes spinning on the living room record player. Next came cassettes I collected in adolescence and then passed on to my kids for them to enjoy as toys. Soon all my girls will recognize are CDs. I had to tell them what a record was. I wonder what stories they will tell their children. Soon they will use CDs as toys too, along with these plastic records and cassettes. I feel old.

Our family has entered birthday season. Considering that a year has twelve months and 365 days as potential possibilities, we five were born relatively close to each other on the calendar. Mine comes first but Ted’s follows a few weeks later. We have a break until the girls birthdates which mark the start and end of Seattle summertime.

On my birthday morning this year I slathered my face with extra Oil of Olay in a vain act of resistance. I feel old. Why is it, I wondered, while examining the contents of my medicine cabinet, that teeth whitening and skin whitening are accepted, even desired in our society, but hair whitening is not?! (Okay, replace “whitening” with “bleaching” and both teeth and hair are acceptable, only the coiffure is then blond instead of gray.)

I’ve now lived long enough that I’ve known Ted half my life. When we met I was a teenager. I was a first year student at college the year our friendship started. Life had begun.

Now I find myself wondering if life is half done. Of course,we do not know when our last day may be. However, statistics tell me that I may not live past 80 or even 70. Death is waiting. Half of my days, or more, may be past me. Where am I going? What’s left of my life?

This year also happens to be the year our passports need to be renewed. I look at the Julie who had her picture taken ten years ago. She looks younger and thinner. Compared to me today, she looks like a model: imperfections invisible. Her hair is styled differently with long bangs covering her forehead and the rest bundled into a braid. This Julie looks calm and carefree and Californian. She’s preparing for a trip to Italy with her husband who got out of school and got a job. Life in Cupertino is sunny and sweet so far. Yes, I can remember. I can read it in her eyes.

My new picture has a strange expression. I look startled because I was. My long hair is loose, the way I wear it now, except tucked behind my ears so the photographer can see my face. I look like I didn’t comb my hair. I look like I’m about to speak my mind. I look like I tried to get my passport photo taken while my three girls were playing with toys in the ten minutes before my eye doctor appointment. I look like I’ve lived through battles.

I wish I still resembled the 1995 me. But that seems silly. After all, shouldn’t I look like I’ve lived another ten years? Since that first passport picture was taken, Ted and I have moved three times. We’ve bought two houses and sold one of them. Cars have come and gone. So have jobs. And some relationships. We went from living in the middle of the maze of Silicon Valley to living in the middle of the Pacific Ocean’s Puget Sound. Journeys have started and ended. We exposed ourselves spiritually, emotionally, physically to others, sometimes retreating in tears. We submitted ourselves to the infertility doctor. We’ve let our insides be scrutinized by specialists. The Julie in the old passport photo had never held her brother while he was dying. That Julie had never held her baby, first inside her and then outside on her chest, in that miraculous moment of meeting someone you already know.

Ten years from now I’ll renew my passport and take another picture. I wonder what that Julie, a decade older than I am now, will think of the Julie who posed for a photo last week. Where will she be in life? What will she be thinking? What song will she be singing?


Tags: journal

8 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jenn // Mar 11, 2005 at 10:17 am

    Happy Birthday, Julie!
    May this season of family birthdays bring many smiles and good memories.

    Our family birthdays all seemed concentrated in the fall. Until my boys were born-they’re mid-winter babies. Sort of gives them a season of their own.

  • 2 Bob V // Mar 11, 2005 at 11:13 am

    Wow, I got my passport photo taken just yesterday! Like you, my last one was from 1995 (and thus my need to get a new one.) Visually, I see my ’95 self as a goofy little kid. I was much more opinionated then, perhaps because I didn’t think through my ideas as much.

    I have my own opinion about my prior self, but I feel bad that my prior self does not get the chance to judge me. What would he think? I wonder if he would judge all the effort that goes into life to be worth it having seen the results of ten years later.

  • 3 Betsy Devine // Mar 11, 2005 at 12:01 pm

    Dear Julie, Many happy returns of your birthday! I love your picture of this toy record player from your childhood. It brought back memories for me too–not from my own childhood, but because i bought Fisher-Price toy for my own daughter. And it’s now in my attic, waiting for another generation to enjoy it.

  • 4 Katherine // Mar 11, 2005 at 4:15 pm

    Loved this. Be proud of your battle scars from all the fabulous things you’ve accomplished in bearing and raising your treasures! As the wrinkles and creases and grey hairs accumulate, let’s count them as indicators of greater wisdom, experience, and perseverance in life…

  • 5 Amanda // Mar 11, 2005 at 4:42 pm

    Great post, Julie!

    Many happy returns.

  • 6 Patricia Taylor // Mar 11, 2005 at 8:21 pm

    Slightly belated Birthday Wishes for Many More times to reflect the goodness of God expressed in the life and times of Julie Leung! As you know, it was also William’s birthday, and I recall going to your place of work in CA one day to bring you birthday goodies with Katherine some years back when you lived and worked in CA.
    I miss seeing you, yet feel very much connected to you every time I check to read your weblogs.
    Thank you for every word you write expressing such well-considered, deep, and often humorous, thoughts. You are a jewel whom I treasure!
    I am now 60, and life only gets better. William turned 62 and says it was the best birthday he can remember. I cooked a lot! Including Katherine’s famous marble pound cake with chocolate glaze 😉
    Love and many hugs,
    Patricia, your friend in VA

  • 7 katy // Mar 12, 2005 at 11:06 pm

    Happy Birthday! Patricia is right, life does get better!

  • 8 Julie // Mar 13, 2005 at 1:09 am

    Thank you, everyone, for the birthday greetings, refreshing perspectives and kind encouragement.

Leave a Comment