No time for a party back during my 16th birthday.
As soon as Mom got home from work at the old Sunbeam shaver plant east of Elkin I had her rush me down to the driver’s license office in North Elkin before it closed. On this birthday my mind was zeroed in on no present other than getting that precious slip of a driver’s license. Supper, celebration, everything else had to wait.
Mom was eager, too, because she was getting tired of having to go with me to work at the old Lowe’s Foods store in Jonesville and then come and get me at shift’s end.
During the driver’s road test on what they now call North Elkin Drive I performed my Y-turn just as I had done for Coach Whittington during driver’s education road class in school. Flawless.
And I similarly breezed through the written test at the DMV, scored 100, and breezed through the traffic signs in the little viewer. Driver’s ed in school had served me well.
I was mystified at why our leaders in the state capital last summer considered doing away with school driver’s ed before they came to their senses and reversed course a couple of weeks ago.
I got out of the DMV office when I was 16 with a few minutes to spare before closing time and clutching my precious license. I was in business.
Two years later it hit me as I headed to Spanish class on campus Down East for another tedious 50 minutes of conjugating Spanish verbs. Hey, I thought. I’m 18 today.
I was legally an adult. I was on my own. I could, for instance, run off and get married and nobody could stop me. I could do what I wanted.
For a minute I contemplated my newly promoted status. But being an adult meant getting down to business and being responsible. I didn’t think about 18 for the rest of the busy day.
I don’t remember giving a minute’s thought to my 30th birthday. I had a job to get to and a newspaper to help get out. When I turned 30 I was caught up with home and work and a bunch of other things. I was in my prime and had no time for peripheries like birthdays.
Now turning 45, that one did give me pause. At best I had reached the midpoint of my lifespan. I probably had more years behind me than ahead, I remember pondering at the time.
A new millennium was dawning. I was back in the hometown. I had moved on from a satisfying newspaper career and was trying new things.
And I did feel a bit of pressure to get on with things, to get some things done, to check off on the bucket list, though they had not invented that phrase yet. I could hear behind me the faint footsteps of the march of time.
But I felt healthy. I felt happy. I still felt excitement about life, love and what was ahead.
And so now I come to 60. That comes tomorrow, by the way.
You could say that the spring is no longer in my step. I still feel healthy and happy, as before, but this time the excitement I feel comes from looming retirement. That will come with the next and final, big age landmark of 62. Yes, I’m past ready to drop the daily work grind.
But at 60 things are turning serious. Too many of my peers, too many of my classmates, didn’t make it this far. My mother, for one, came nowhere near 60.
While young you think that you’ll never make it this far, to 60. You can’t conceive becoming this old. But with God’s grace it will happen. Now it’s my turn.
So I’ll start tomorrow off with a return trip to the DMV in North Elkin. It’s time to renew that license that I got on birthday No. 16, and the trip will be nostalgic.
Following will be some time off to think and reflect. The reflections part will be pleasant, and I know they’ll be a blessing. The thinking part, well, I’ll just have to wait and see what hits me.
I’ll have to keep the calendar open for tomorrow evening. I’ve noticed folks acting odd during the last few days, as if they’re up to something. Better be ready.
And in case any young folks are still reading at this point, I do have some sage advice for those still early into their life journeys.
Love God. Do your family and your other loved ones proud. But most importantly do yourself proud.
There’s no need to dwell much on all the disappointments, the heartaches. But the successes deserve celebrating, again and again. So celebrate them.
Especially when you hit birthday No. 60.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.