For reasons I can’t explain there is a small pleasantness to numbers in which the digits are the same, as when the odometer of a car turns to 44,444.4 miles or when the time is 11:11. Again, I don’t know why. It’s not as though I pop champagne corks to celebrate such events, but if I notice one I might smile. Perhaps that is odd. Perhaps not. As that may be, a birthday in a couple days will be a double. I would smile more about it if it were a lower number, but one takes what one can get. It brings to mind earlier doubles.
11: Age 12 is normally the peak of boyhood – presumably of girlhood, too, though I have no direct experience of that. 12-year-old boys (generalizing, of course) are confident, bold, and surprisingly competent. (The majority of adult Americans, including college graduates, get by on a typical 12-year-old’s math and reading skills, either because they never exceed that level or because they backslide to it after a brief bump-up in high school and college.) At 13 all that boyhood confidence drowns hopelessly under a wave of hormones and teen angst. The highest stage of childhood is traded for a new status as the lowliest of teenagers – a status underlined by a transition to high school. I effectively skipped 12. For me 11 was as close to that exalted position as I got. The reason is a peculiarity of private schools. Private secondary schools traditionally are Grades 7-12 (Forms I-VI) and mine was no exception. So, “high school” for me started in Grade 7 at age 11, thereby vaulting me (socially, if not numerically) completely over 12 all the way to the self-conscious and awkward teens – made extra awkward by being the youngest in my class and therefore, in that first year, the youngest in the whole school.
All the same, 11 was a good year. I put 6th Grade behind me. In the summer that followed in those pre-videogame days there was much summer biking, playing in woods and streams, and (on rainy days) model-building. Random memory: in early November a black mare named Anthracite ran off on me despite my constant tug on the reins. She ran until she reached a stream at which point she planted her feet at the edge. I didn’t stop. Splash.
22: After a very mixed 21 in which a happy college graduation was followed by post-graduation blues and anomie, I regained some footing at 22. Travel helped. Random memory: While driving across the Utah salt flats from Nevada to Salt Lake City the white salt reflected the blue sky perfectly. So, it looked for all the world as if the mountains beyond the flats were floating in the air. 22 was a good year, too.
33: By this time I owned my own little cabin in the woods and had met a few other of the usual “adult independence” benchmarks, much to my own surprise. This was a transitional year in significant ways. My youthful hard-partying days phased out during the year; I became virtually a teetotaler by the end of it. My first really serious romantic relationship had gone south at age 27, and I spent the next several years deliberately avoiding anything serious in favor of casual tête-à-têtes only. Yet, by the end of the year I was in an exclusive relationship again and remained in one for 3.5 years, a personal record.
Random memory: My significant other was arrested. She didn’t do it. She had a similar name, a similar description, and the same model car as a woman wanted for robbery. After being stopped on the highway, she was released when it was clear she wasn’t the suspect, but not before a fingerprint check.
44: The calm before the storm. Let’s just leave it at that.
Random memory: My tuxedo cat named Succotash sat on the couch next to me. She suddenly popped up her head and looked around with a wild look in her eyes. She leapt off the couch, ran the length of the house to my bedroom, jumped up onto the bed, and vomited on my pants, which lay on top. It was a deliberate choice to throw up there in particular.
55: The calm after the storm.
Random memory: Every now and then I revisit high school skills that have faded. I’m not sure why I engage in this strange behavior given that the only reason the skills fade is that I don’t have a need to use them regularly. Perhaps it’s an unconscious (until now) way to deny aging. If so, it doesn’t work. Anyway, because it coincided with other events I can place securely in time, I remember it was age 55 that I last revisited my old algebra text, which I still had (and have) on a shelf. (I didn’t have the temerity to tackle trig or calculus.) Sadly, I’d probably have to do it again before successfully factoring any but the simplest quadratic equations, and what is f(x) anyhow?
The next double is almost here, but just “almost” so there isn’t much to say about it yet. With any luck (and I wish the same luck to the reader on whatever highway number on which he or she may be traveling) the route through the next year of life will be the full length, will have few potholes, and will not be without kicks.
Nat King Cole – (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 (1946)