The Mill Market & Deli is located on Dorset Street in South Burlington, just north of the Shelburne town line. The "Mill" part of the store name reflects that, historically, this was the site of the Chittenden Farm and Cider Mill. The current owners carry on that tradition, producing and marketing Chittenden's Sweet Apple Cider. (It's good.)
The surrounding farm is no more, having been transformed into a condo development, accessible via Cider Mill Drive. It's a community of primarily young families and home to a cluster of my regular customers.
I pulled into the driveway of two of these regulars — Tim and Daphne Reynolds. Tim opened the front door and shot me a raised forefinger, the universal hand symbol for "one minute." When the two of them came out, I could see they were decked out for a special occasion. As it happened, I knew what it was, because Tim had told me when he scheduled the pickup earlier in the day: a birthday party for Daphne.
"Daphne, you look beautiful," I told her, truthfully, as she and her husband settled into the back seat. She was the mother of three kids but appeared none the worse for the wear. In her younger years, Daphne was a nationally competitive figure skater, and, with her still-svelte body, she looked ready to hit the ice tomorrow.
"And I guess now you'll be able to legally drink, which will be fun," I added, firing up the charm.
"You said it, Jernigan," she said, playing along with a chuckle. "I'm so 21 years old. Nope, it's actually the big five-oh, if you can believe it."
"Well, I can't believe it," I said — again truthfully. "How do you feel? What's it like?"
"Honestly, I feel great," she replied, her blue eyes sparkling. "I have a fortunate and blessed life, and reaching this number doesn't freak me out one bit."
"Well, happy birthday to you," I said, while thinking, Perhaps Daphne is being, like, 92 percent truthful with herself. She might be, in actuality, a wee bit freaked out about reaching this milestone. Aging is a thorny process, and all the more so for a woman in our society, in ways I'm aware I can never fully appreciate.
As a person who has passed the big six-oh, I speak with some perspective. Turning 30, 40 or 50 carries symbolic meaning, but, in truth, those decennial markers are mere steps along the long road of ongoing adulthood — the broad demographic between youth and old age.
Turning 60, however, is a different kettle of fish. Remember being a kid? For me, it was like being a member of a tribe. The world was divided into kids and adults, and I was in the kid tribe. When I reached adulthood, that tribal identity evaporated. In this respect, as I passed my 60th year, I experienced a measure of déjà vu. Unexpectedly, I found myself once again a member of a tribe: the Clan of the Old Folks.
To those who have not yet reached this age marker and think I'm being dramatic, or overstating things, just you wait.
Tim said, "I think I told you, Jernigan, we'll be picking up a few friends who live in the development, and then we're off to Waterworks in Winooski. We rented a room at the restaurant. We're expecting about 30 folks."
Making good use of my minivan's three rows of seats, the vehicle easily accommodated the whole group, with Tim shifting to shotgun. "So, 50," he said to me, "what do you think about that?"
"Yeah, it's crazy," I replied. "Just two hours ago, it was actually 57 degrees!" I was experiencing a sixtysomething brain fart. "By morning, they say it's going down to single digits with some significant snowfall."
"Yeah, this weather is nuts," Tim agreed graciously. "I was actually talking about Daphne's birthday."
"Oh, jeez, of course," I said, reaching over and squeezing his arm. "Like I said, I can't believe it. Your wife is gorgeous inside and out, man. You are one lucky dude."
"Thanks, man," Tim said. "Don't think I don't know it. I really wanted to do it up right for her 50th. Daphne's always gotten a little gypped on her birthdays, with it falling right after the holidays — you know, with people broke and partied out."
"So, you planned this shindig together?"
"Yeah, we did. And that was fun, too. She actually handled a lot of the details, like the food and flower display."
"Are you saying you didn't pick out the flowers? Man, Tim, you are one neglectful husband."
"Hey, what can I say?" he replied, laughing. "I try my best, Jernigan. I really do."
We reached Waterworks, and the group climbed out of my taxi, everyone talking and laughing. The birthday girl herself was joyful, ready for a night of memories worthy of her semicentennial. Tim had done it up right.
All these stories are true, though names and locations may be altered to protect privacy.