These numbers just can't be right

For those of you not "in the know" (basically everyone outside my immediate family), today is an auspicious day. My 21st wedding anniversary. My marriage can finally drink legally.

What kind of gift is appropriate for that milestone? Traditional gifts for a 21st anniversary, I learned, are brass and nickel, symbols of strength, endurance and longevity. That's sort of sweet, isn't it? Makes it feel like this marriage is a fortress. Which, in a way, I suppose it has been.

It doesn't feel like 21 years, though - it feels like maybe 10? Which is odd, since our children are 18 and 19. Funny how everyone else gets old, but I still feel like I'm just barely learning the ropes at this whole wife and parent thing.

Maybe now that I'm an empty-nester, it'll sink in? So, let's do the math. Or as they say in Across the Pond (where we recently visited), the Maths. How do all my numbers add up this year?

36. It had been 36 years since I last visited Great Britain. In 1988, I spent the obligatory semester abroad, always saying I'd be back again soon. I discovered that London is a total hoot to experience with my family, who indulge my mania for visiting literary landmarks. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese (a pub frequented by Dickens! and Yeats!) is still there on Fleet Street, near Dr. Johnson's house. The Globe Theatre has been rebuilt and proudly stands Bankside. It didn't exist 36 years ago, so who says progress isn't possible? Of course, now I am closer now in age to King Lear than I am to Hamlet, let alone Juliet. Contrary to Lady Capulet, however, my dancing days are far from over.

40. My 40th high school reunion is this fall at good old Hinsdale Central. Don't even get me started.

14. We've raised our children for 14 years in this town. Our kids have moved from kindergarten/preschool into two college students. These 14 years here in town have encompassed the entirety of their childhoods. Toddlers to young adults: learning how to tie their shoes and write and drive cars and apply to colleges. They went from clinging to Mommy to being embarrassed by her to a happy tolerance.

32. That is, the total number of years I've lived in Hinsdale. I spent the first 18 years of my life on North Street across from Burns Field. The village is, of course, both completely different and absolutely unchanged from back then. Everybody still complains about the school board (doesn't matter which one) and the parking and the trains, but now we have cool restaurants and kids' bikes have little motors in them.

Age is just a silly number, of course. My years may be adding up alarmingly, but I count myself lucky to be part of this crazy equation.

- Susan O'Byrne of Hinsdale is a former contributing columnist. Readers can email her at [email protected].