"Grandma, why do your hands have polka dots?" Seven-year-old Becky scrutinizes my hand clasped in hers then frowns up at me quizzically. "How come you get to have polka dots and I don't?"
Self-consciously I pull my hand out of her grasp to rub it with the other. "Those aren't polka dots, Sweetie. They are, um, they are age spots." I almost whisper the word age as though afflicted with a rare disorder.
"What are age spots? I'm almost eight. Then I'll be a big girl. Can I get age spots then? Becky bounces with anticipation.
"No, Honey. You can't get age spots when you are young. Age spots come with, well, age," I stammer.
Slowly I sink into my favorite chair. Exactly what is age? Does age mean old? Am I old? I don't feel old. Uneasy questions gnaw at me.
I lift my eyes to a framed photo of Mother Teresa, gnarled hands clasped in prayer, deeply furrowed face radiating unruffled peace. Mother Teresa successfully lived the selfless character and unconditional love of Jesus throughout her life. Her face captures a rare beauty, birthed deep in her being, pushing out until it permeates every lined crevice. Wrinkles competing with wrinkles surround her joy-filled eyes and happy mouth.
Wrinkles on Mother Teresa spell character. However, wrinkles on me shout old. Unconsciously, I reach up to touch her beloved hands, loaded with age spots. My fingers move to trace the countless creases on her face.
Yet, as much as I admire Mother Teresa, and hope to also display Christ's love and character, I can't honestly say it wouldn't bother me to look like her.
I turn from her image to stare absently out the window. Fall has arrived in all her fiery glory. Our maples stand proudly clad in deep red, orange or gold. Presently, several bright leaves release their tenacious hold and drift soundlessly to earth.
I feel a kinship with the shedding trees. Surely autumn has come to my life as well. Like the gently falling leaves, bit by bit I sense the gradual waning of physical beauty and strength.
"Grandma! You promised we could make cookies." Becky's strident demand jolts me back to business at hand. Gliding across the floor with ballerina grace, Becky stops in front of me just long enough to see if she has captured my attention.
I lift a hand to brush my fingers across her upturned cheek, glowing in spring's full bloom; her young body stretching eagerly toward summer's adulthood much like my own seedlings reaching for the sun. Her thirsty mind soaks up knowledge as keenly as my tulips drink of April rains.
"Can we make chocolate chip? When's Christmas? Can we make Santa's cookies chocolate chip this year? I just know he likes those best."
Becky's thoughts flit from topic to topic with the same ease as her feet dancing about the kitchen. Enthusiastically she throws open cabinet doors in search of cookie-making materials.
"Wait!" My assaulted brain fights to keep up with such rapid-fire questions.
"I don't think we have any chocolate chips."
Becky's feet stop in mid pirouette.
"What? O, Grandmaaa. No chocolate chips? We have to make chocolate chip. I promised Daddy!"
"Can't we make something else?" I venture.
Becky's incredulous eyes stare up at me as if to say are you serious? Other cookies exist besides chocolate chip?
"Pleeeeeze?" she begs with her most winning smile.
I push aside unwelcome thoughts of going out into the brisk air.
"Yippee!" She screeches, dashing for the door.
Just then the jangling phone halts our steps. I reach for the receiver as Becky bounces on the balls of her feet, one hand firmly clutching the doorknob.
"Hi, Mom. I have to work late tonight. Do you mind keeping Becky a few extra hours?"
"Of course not. She'll be fine. We were just walking out the door to go buy chocolate chips to make cookies Yes Ok Bye, now."
On our drive to the local market, my thoughts turn to my eldest daughter, Becky's mother. Smart and ambitious, she and her husband each hold good positions in large corporations; yet they always manage to find quality family time and actively serve others through the church. Their home constantly buzzes with joyful activity and laughter.
Unconsciously I release a long sigh. My own body tells me my years of abundant summer productivity are drawing to a close even as my mind fights against this truth.
Thoughts as somber as the blacktop parking lot needle me as I park and we exit the car.
"Look, Grandma." Becky jabs her finger at the gaggling Canada geese overhead. Just airborne, they struggle to form their signature vee formation.
The brisk fall wind whips my hair about as I lift my face to observe the flock. I inhale deeply of its freshness. Bright gold and red leaves swirl in ecstatic dance about my feet. Suddenly I feel very much alive and glad for this new season of life.
Autumn spells harvest. Crisp apples, golden corn and squat pumpkins dot our hillsides. After spring planting and summer growth, local farmers are now reaping autumn's bounteous reward.
Like the farmers, I too possess a rich harvest. Experience, knowledge and wisdom fill my life's barn; memories of life's ups and downs, joys and sorrows snugly stored in every available nook.
Suddenly I realize the privilege before me; that of sharing my own harvest with the many young hearts and minds surrounding me. Excitement grows as I think about all I have to offer. With lightened step I take Becky's hand in a firm grip and turn towards the market.
"Come on, Becky. We've got cookies to bake!"
The author wishes to enjoy every year God gives her on this earth.