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do roses know their thorns are painful?
october 16, 1999
The Ramseys are back in the news.
This past week, a grand jury in Colorado refused to indict them for the murder of their daughter Jon Benet.
Jon Benet was a little five year old girl who participated in a large number of tiny tot beauty pageants, which probably meant more to her mother than to her, and who one night was found in the cellar of her parents' huge home, with its perplexing maze of rooms; dead, garroted, possibly violated. Cut down, before she could grow into the person she was meant to be.
In an interview, the Ramsey's gardener (who like everyone else has submitted DNA samples), related how intelligent a girl she was, even at five. At one point, she asked him what a "year" is. When he told her it's the amount of time it takes for the earth to orbit around the sun, she said, "So that means I've made five trips around the sun already."
In that sense, we are, all of us, space travelers, much as we're time travelers. Mary, who had another birthday this week, has now had forty-six trips around the sun. Next month, November, I'll have had forty-nine trips around the sun, all those millions and millions of miles I've traveled, and will start my last year as someone in his forties.
The hardest birthday for me was my twenty-fifth, because it suddenly dawned on me, sitting at my desk at work, at that point the main office of a bank in New England, high, vaulted marble ceilings above me that bounced down weird talk echoes, it seems so far away now, that my age could be measured in terms of a century. I was one-quarter of a century old. The thought depressed me so much I sold my house and moved to California, where I met Mary and grew young again.
Time affects you, the unrelentingness of it, like water across a stone. But the bad effect of it is strictly exterior almost always. Only your spacesuit shows it. Brigitte Bardot, the blonde babe of my childhood, blue-eyed and buxom, lost her looks, but turned into the person she had always wanted to be, someone who promoted kindness to animals. If you've seen a picture of her lately, her face is full of wrinkles, but her eyes full of peace and joy. The indignities of digestion are worth it.
I'm a better person than I was ten years ago, and twenty. I was given that opportunity to work out my pain over decades, an opportunity almost all of us get. Even as time is unkind to our bodies, it bestows great kindness to our psyches. Time's dual nature, pricking our fingers every day, but filling our nostrils with that wonderful aroma of experience.
We celebrate time with roses. For her birthday, I sent Mary a dozen different-colored roses, in a shapely glass vase. "We grow old, we wear our trousers rolled."
The first question Jon Benet ever asked the gardener was, "Do roses know their thorns are painful?"