Wrinkles. Sun spots. White hair. A stout waist. Flabby arms, arms my sister and I took delight in jiggling. Hers was a body I loved. When I was a child, even into adolescence, even into those years of beginning to worry about my own size and shape, even then, a part of me longed for my grandmother's body.
Her body told stories. The sun spots once were freckles gained through countless summers on the beach, the wrinkles signs of laughter, of worry, of a husband who left her a widow at age 28. The stout waist testified to her children, the miscarriages, the three who lived. Her body told stories.
And I wanted that. I wanted to grow up and be proud of my laugh lines and shrug my shoulders at loose skin around my neck or hold onto the extra layer of fat around my middle and call it love handles, with a smile.
Now I am 32. Hardly old. But I have borne two children. My body has expanded and shrunk, and like a rubber band used a few times, my skin hangs a little now. There are extra pounds around my middle that have refused to budge, that no number of crunches or yoga routines or workouts on the stairmaster have managed to whittle away.
I have two lines like train tracks etched upon my forehead. From reading? From thinking? From squinting in the sun? And my face hints at the fact that one day more will come, the lines that create a parentheses around my father's mouth, the ones that radiate from my mother's eyes. One day, I will inherit their faces.
And my arms. My grandmother indulged us as kids when we asked her to extend her arms, as if she were pretending to fly. She didn't seem to mind. She even laughed when we got what we wanted: the chance to jiggle the extra skin and fat under her triceps as if it were a guitar string we could pluck. I can see it now. One day I will have those arms.
I wanted to love getting old. I thought I would see it as a badge of honor and a chance to stop caring about the gaze of the world. I never wanted the options of age-defying cream and hair coloring and intense aerobic exercise well into my golden years. I thought that once I had given birth, I would be able to shrug my shoulders when a bikini no longer looked good. I thought I would be able to see it as a worthwhile tradeoff—"I don't have a flat stomach but I do have two children." I do have a family. I do have a past.
Of course, I now realize my grandmother never embraced aging. Now, at age 82, she has her hair and nails done once a week. She visits the dermatologist regularly to make sure those sun spots don't turn into cancer. And she can still tell me, with a sigh, how much she weighed on her wedding day. I realize now that she hadn't wanted to grow old, and she hadn't wanted her body to bear the marks of time.
But still, as I stand in front of the mirror and name my imperfections, I want to see myself with the eyes of a child. With the eyes of my daughter, who, while watching me get dressed, will pause, and look up at me, and say, "Booful, Mama." I want to see this body—stretch marks and wrinkles and all—as beautiful, a testimony to the beginning of a life well lived, a testimony to joy, laughter, hard work, and sorrow. Perhaps, thirty years from now, I will be able to smile when they ask me, "Grandma, can we jiggle your arms?"