10 months ago

Lambeth Climaco My First Sombrero

“I can have a birthday

“I can have a birthday sombrero?” I asked, way too enthusiastically. I’d thought the sombreros were just for kids. “Of course!” she said, and returned with a giant straw hat just for me, with Chevy’s embroidered in vivid red across the front. “Oh wow!” I said, “This is my first sombrero!” (Again, too much enthusiasm.) Immediately I thought: what a goofy thing to say. This is my first sombrero? Am I expecting a barrage of sombreros, of which this is only the beginning? Are sombreros the traditional fortieth birthday gift? How many years has my subconscious desire for a sombrero gone unrealized? Finally, at long last, the day had come. It may have sounded goofy, but I was genuinely excited about my first sombrero. I hadn’t even realized I’d wanted one until that moment. Maybe you’ve heard the saying, “This ain’t my first rodeo.” People tend to say it with a smirk, as if to show their experiences have made them a bit cynical about people’s motives. The dog ate your homework, you say? Son, this ain’t my first rodeo. But here’s the strange thing: I’ve used this phrase myself, although I have never been to a rodeo. Somehow, I managed to reach the age of forty but have yet to witness my first rodeo. On the bright side, if someone were to give me another sombrero, at least I could say: Thanks, but this ain’t my first sombrero. ### Turning forty hasn’t hit me hard—yet—but it does serve as a useful reminder that this life is limited. David, the poet behind Psalm 103, offered this reminder: ! 2

The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more (Psalm 103.15, NIV). It’s no secret that we each have an expiration date. Given the life spans of my grandparents, forty is a fairly accurate indicator of middle age (barring fatal accidents or illnesses). But how can I be middle-aged, I wonder, when I have so many things left to do? ### I have been doing my own laundry for many years. When I was a kid, my mom wouldn’t let me use the washer and dryer, since she considered laundry her domain. I didn’t mind. However, since college I’ve been washing and folding shirts and underwear, jeans and sheets, and everything in between with varying degrees of success. It wasn’t until recently, nearly two decades out of college, that I figured out how to fold a fitted sheet. Although I had seen Martha Stewart demonstrate it on TV years ago, it had not sunk in. Until one afternoon when, suddenly, I had a bright epiphany and took hold of the corners: inside out, outside, outside, inside out, and voila! I had a fitted sheet that looked more like deliberate, neat origami than the usual flattened wad of cotton percale. I realize it’s probably yesterday’s news to you and Martha Stewart, but it was a moment of revelation to me. My first fitted sheet! Also manifest in my fitted-sheet feat was this truth: that I've reached middle age and still have so much to learn. ! 3

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