I love summer, and among the almost numberless things about the season that make me feel like I’m really human is being able to drive with the car completely open. Absent a convertible – which, in my corner of the world, would not be practical; the drafts I would suffer in the bitter winter couldn’t begin make up for the joy of driving topless in the too-short summer – I crank down all the windows, fore and aft, and reel back the sunroof to spill sunshine and wind into the cabin of my little car, heating my forearms, stirring my collar, and swirling my hair into erratic, curly auburn eddies.
A recent joyride in the summer sun brought a discovery I wasn’t expecting, however. Driving to pick up my beloved for a lunch date, I traveled a well-known road, reveling in the hum of the tires, the leaves on the trees dancing in the wind, and the wildflowers growing in the gravely dirt just beyond the white line on pavement that shimmered in the heat. My eyes scanned the road almost exactly as I was taught in driver’s ed. classes some 25 years ago; side mirror-road-rear view. Side mirror-road-rear view. Then something caught my eye. Road. Rear view. Road. Rear view. Rearviewrearviewrearview.
There, glittering in the sunshine of a beautiful July day in my 41st year, I saw them for the first time; gray hairs. Once I caught sight of the first one, the others, like magic, became apparent and I could easily discern dozens of them vying for attention in the bright light, scattered among the crazy swirl of rich, windblown red.
I am not my mother’s daughter. Where she fretted long and loud about the approach of silver in her hair – and then plucked and dyed and fretted some more – I welcome this harbinger of approaching old age. How wonderful to have made it this far! How delightful to have chromatic diversity on one’s own head! How gratifying to continue to make good on wedding day promises to grow old together!
I am certain that the single silver strands will someday begin to overtake the auburn population, and I suspect that my delight then will begin to shift to finding red among the gray. For today, though, I feel an odd sense of satisfaction, as if my silver hairs are a visible representation of an accomplishment of stamina and of having taken joy in the journey.