Issue 19: Age

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In his dedication to The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis wrote, “Someday you will be old enough to start reading fairy tales again.” He was expressing regret that at the time of publication, his god-daughter, for whom he had created a fictional universe, was now too old for it. He hoped that one day she would take the tale down “from some upper shelf, dust it,” and find something worthwhile.

But he was also observing something true about all of us: that with any luck, as we age we return to childlikeness. This is especially the case in our spiritual lives. As Jesus said to his disciples, “Unless you become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Faith, vulnerability, deference — such virtues can appear with time, as we gain sight of the things that truly matter.

Even so, aging is eternally awkward. That’s what I discovered while preparing Issue 19 of The Mockingbird magazine. Whenever I mentioned the theme to anyone, the exchange was uniformly uncomfortable; self-deprecation seemed mandatory. Part of the discomfort, I guess, is that aging is usually bad news. Each stage of life brings expectations we struggle to meet, and we tend to think that by a certain age we should be a certain way. But at some point or another, most of us feel we have “missed the boat.”

Age indicates limitation — it’s a number that seems to confine you. It comes with a feeling of being fundamentally different than or cut off from other generations. But the truth is, everyone has an age — and at no point is it not a judgment. You’re either too old or too young; out of touch or inexperienced; you don’t know what it’s like, or you don’t know what it’s like. As a Calvin & Hobbes strip once wondered, “How old do you have to be before you know what’s going on?”

In this issue, contributors young, old, and middle-aged describe the view from where they are, as well as the faith that gives them hope no matter how bewildered they may feel or how thin their hair. Alongside personal essays, we also have a bounty of indelible poetry and interviews for the ages. Journalist Jonathan Rauch tells us why life often gets better after 50; novelist Kirstin Valdez Quade gets into the minds of differently aged characters; and Paul F. M. Zahl helps us find peace in the last third of life. You’ll find a sermon from Fleming Rutledge, an essay on the redemptive pull of nostalgia, and most importantly, a consistent message of hope that transcends age — and the ages. —CJ Green, editor

CONTENTS

“Memories From the Future” by NATE MILLS

“The Utopia of Childhood” by MELINA LUNA SMITH

Our Q&A with Kids by CHELSY HAYNES

Two Poems by MAURICE MANNING

“Motherhood in the Time of COVID” by CAROLINE SIEGRIST

“Remembering Childhood” by JASON THOMPSON

“Dreams and the Real Story” by CHARLOTTE GETZ

“Your Roaring Twenties” by CALI YEE

“The Imaginative Leap” with KIRSTIN VALDEZ QUADE (interview)

“Dear Gracie…” by SARAH CONDON

“Skinny Jeans, Middle-Parts, and Makeovers” by JANE ANDERSON GRIZZLE

“Please Help the Cause Against (Middle Age Male) Loneliness” by DAVID ZAHL

“Wine Pairings for Every Age” by STEPHANIE PHILLIPS

“Beyond the Midlife Crisis” with JONATHAN RAUCH (interview)

“Ready or Not” by ERIC YOUNGBLOOD

“Finding Peace in the Last Third of Life” with PAUL F. M. ZAHL (interview)

“A Pattern of Minutes in Illness” by BRENDA HILLMAN (poetry)

Three Poems by LISA RUSS SPAAR

“Opening Up” with DR. CHAO FANG (Q&A)

“The View in Winter” by RONALD BLYTHE (excerpt)

“Hoping Against Hope” by FLEMING RUTLEDGE (sermon)

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