Christine Eclavea Mercer describes herself as a “freelance writer and all around geek.” On her blog Frog In North Georgia, she writes about technology, humor and “pretty much anything else that comes to mind.” When she tweeted, “Thoughts on turning 40 next year. And gosh, have we really been alive this long?” I had to read the entire post. In it, Christine talks about moving and being welcomed by her grandmother with kisses on both cheeks, a lunch of grapes, cheese and baguette, and a jar of Nivea Daily Nourishing Cream…
In 2010, I will turn 40. I spent my twenties educating myself, growing up, working, and traveling. I did much of it badly. At 27, it finally occurred to me that if I ever wished to procreate I should find myself attracted to nice men, instead of the bad boys of my youth. Else I would be childless forever, or a single parent. I did not find either of those options agreeable.
My standards certainly changed in my thirties. Before that I imagined success the way children do, that one must be the CEO, the President, the Astronaut, the Prima Ballerina. I was taught to aim high like the Air Force.
Children and family were an idea in my twenties, the thing that kept me from getting to work on time because I was stuck behind the school bus, or giving me a headache on the screaming baby flight. They were the thing my mother nagged about at every phone conversation – the reason I stopped calling.
In 1998 the most backward wonderful thing happened: I lost my job. It was a window opening for me. I left my jackass (now ex) husband. And moved to Atlanta to be with my grandmother, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. By the time I arrived for good it was 1999.
I won’t bore you with the whole of it. That’s the meat. That, and the fact that I declared myself a person who liked men who are nice, and have the ability to stay in one location for more than the number of months between deployments by the military, transfers by the FBI, or sudden relocation by more sinister organizations that shall not be named.
Voila, new town, new decade, new me. Mostly. My damn driving record and total inability to drive 55 followed me.
My grandmother welcomed me with kisses on both cheeks, a lunch of grapes, cheese and baguette, and a jar of Nivea Daily Nourishing Cream. She swore by the stuff and had been tucking it into my suitcase for about five years by then. It was her secret skin recipe that was not at all secret. My mother had rejected it. And she was determined to pass it on.
I found it a bit heavy, except in January when the central heat sucks every last drop of moisture from the air. But I kept it. I gave away the extra jars to friends when they commented on her fabulous skin. I always had four or five laying around. I couldn’t refuse them. She wouldn’t allow me to. And anyway, I am not my mother.
Due to her insistence that I take the Nivea, and my very slow progress in using it up, I have donated countless jars of it to battered women’s shelters over the years. All because I could not say no to my grandmother. And she insisted that her skin was fabulous because of the Nivea and the good genes.
Around the time I turned 35, which is when my body went crazy in general, I started to use the Nivea for more months out of the year, all winter long instead of only January. And now, at 39, I start using it when the temperature drops below 70 degrees and continue until April or May. I suppose that when I’m 85, if I live that long and the Nivea is still being made I’ll be using it all year long.
I’ve replaced most commercial beauty products with preservative-free handmade goods. Even things I thought would be too weirdly hippie smelling and creepy to use in their more natural forms, like shampoo bars and deodorant sans aluminum have appeared among my toiletries. The Nivea lingers.
I’m not usually sentimental. But I’m almost 40. So I allow myself some sentimentality now. I never imagined living this long. And it’s these sentimental ideas that bind families together. I never appreciated them before.
Both of my parents are long since passed. And my grandmother died this year. She spent years telling me things followed by the words, because eventually I die.
I’ve started telling DD to pay attention to things about family history, because eventually I die. I’ve been told this is premature. But on my mothers timeline I’ve got less than a decade left. (A fluke probably, but still.)
So I’m declaring these things for the record, the Nivea, my stupid ass mistakes, the fact that I no longer give a a shit if I’m ever the CEO or married to one, that being successfully married means being still married, and successful career means employed with a roof over your head. Because eventually I die.
It isn’t so macabre, just practical. DD is not even creeped out by it. I’m passing on the crazy Frog sensibility. And the Nivea.
Thanks to Christine for sharing her blog post with Women at Forty. You can read her original post on her blog, Frog in North Georgia.
Photo: Christine Eclavea Mercer