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Inside looking out: The perfect age to be

If you could lock yourself into the perfect age, what would it be? Perhaps you had your most fun when you were 10 or 21 or you made great changes in your life when you were 35.

The easy answer to this question is, “I want to be the age I am now because at least I’m still alive to talk about it.” That is true for everyone, but rarely would an 81-year-old say, “The age I’d like to stay at forever is 77 or 80.” Generally, we’d like to be a little or a lot younger.

I asked this question to several people and they provided their “perfect age” with reasons. Peggy from Slatedale said, “I would love to be 12 years old forever. You were in the highest grade in elementary school. The first- and second-graders looked up to you for guidance. Your peers did not judge you by the clothes you wore. Designer clothes were not introduced until later years. Some boys were cute but you didn’t have to worry about awkward dates or aggressive ones. You played jump rope and hopscotch with your friends. Life was so simple back then.”

Sandor from Old Bridge, New Jersey, picked 47 as his perfect age. “I think that’s about the time you are at the peak of your earning power and you should be financially strongest.” He added two more reasons for liking the mid to late 40s range.

“Hopefully, both of your parents, or at least one, is still alive and they can see your success and be happy for their efforts in raising you.

“I also think that when you’re in your 40s, your body might be at its peak with your health. Once you hit 50, everything seems to decline. Your back hurts. You go to the doctor for this or that. You find you can’t do much physically of what you used to do.”

Donna from Lehighton said she’d like to stay at 50 years old. “It was the last year my daughter was in junior bowling tournaments. We traveled all over the country including Las Vegas and Indianapolis where she finished 31st out of 624 bowlers. She won scholarship money and went to Penn State. That was a fun year. I just loved to watch her bowl.”

Brian, Donna’s husband and co-owner with her of Cypress Lanes in Lehighton, said, “I’d want to be 39 again. That’s the year I met Donna right here when I was a substitute bowler in a mixed tournament and you can see what has happened since then.”

Greg from Jim Thorpe thought that 30 is the perfect age to be. “You’re still young enough to go out, go camping, play on a softball team,” he said, “and you can do all the winter sports, too. I was a firefighter in Philly then, full of vim and vigor.”

Mike from Piscataway, New Jersey, picked 27 as his perfect age. “By then, my education is done. I’m still living at home, making some money and sowing my wild oats. At 27, I was old enough to know right from wrong. I was healthy and in good shape and being a single man, I was free to come and go as I pleased, just hanging out and enjoying life. I had not too many worries or obligations yet, but I realized that the years of life coming up were going to be full of challenges.”

So, the ages above range from 12-50. I asked myself the same question and I’m going to choose 11 as my perfect age. When I wasn’t in school, I’d jump on my bike every morning and either go fishing down the pond or I’d play pickup baseball and football games with my friends. There was not much better in life than six or seven of us cruisin’ down the back roads on our Royce Rockets, our Schwinn 10-speeds, and for me, I rode my Huffy Black Beast I had restored from the garbage heap.

I was a paperboy, too, and with the profit I made, I bought fishing lures and baseball cards. When we ran out of coins, my friends and I scanned the woods for glass bottles we could turn into the neighborhood store for deposit so we could buy ice cream or soda pop.

The best part of being 11 years old was I had zero responsibility other than going to school and delivering my newspapers. While everyone else wanted to grow up, get a car and make lots of money, I just wanted to be a kid forever.

The years pass us by. We live through marriages and divorces. We raise children and work jobs and long careers. When we find the time to reflect, our minds replay the movies of our lives starting from as far back as we can remember. The truth be told, the child still lives in the adults we have become and every now and then, that kid awakens in us and we feel free in our minds to play again. We’re jumping rope; we roll our first bowling ball. We play softball. Our parents are young. We’re just “hanging out and enjoying life” and riding our bikes through cool summer breezes.

Some say memories can be cruel. I say it all depends on the way they’re reimagined. Then any age and every age can be the perfect age.

Rich Strack can be reached at richiesadie11@gmail.com.