AlterNet Perspective

“I can’t wait ’til I turn 40…,” Tommy sighed. The 11-year-old boy sat on his parent’s bed watching his mother help his father get ready for his 40th birthday party. His dad, a lean, muscular man stood up straight with his arms held out at a 45-degree angle. His wife wrapped an elegant golden silk cloth around his waist and up his back over his shoulders. His pants were also silk, but dyed black instead. Both his parents smiled non-stop, Tommy felt an excitement in the air. He’d been to 40th parties before, but as a family member, his experience was different this time.

40th birthdays were a community event, and everyone in the community was happy to pitch in to make the day special for the family. This would be Tommy’s first party where he didn’t have to do any set up before or clean up after. He could enjoy the food and fun worry-free, no wonder his parents were smiling so much.

“I hope you’re not expecting to just turn 40 and die without working for it,” Tommy’s dad reminded him with a smile. He hoped talking about it might inspire Tommy the way he was inspired when his father turned 40. “The sooner you pick your class, the sooner you can start putting effort in.” While his wife walked another lap around him with the silky garment, Tommy’s dad used his free hand to pat his abs. “This didn’t happen by accident; I started training as a monk when I was about your age,” he said. Tommy narrowed his large brown eyes at his dad.

“But if your body is planted… what’s the point of getting muscles?” he asked.

“It’s not about the muscles,” his dad replied as Tommy’s mom tied the garment around his waist. “It’s about the discipline it took to get them. Your soul goes with you to the next life, and discipline is how strong your soul is. I chose Monk, and I conditioned my body as a way of training my soul.” His wife finished tying and stepped away to get something from the closet.

“Your mom decided to be a Dancer, you see her practicing that every chance she gets. Whatever class you pick for your next life, start working on it in this one.” It was the best advice his father gave him, and he hoped it stuck with Tommy.

“I don’t want to exercise…,” Tommy whined. “I want to be a wizard or a Card Mage.” His dad smiled at him.

“Every class has its own way of improving, you don’t have to wear yourself out physically. Studying is a valid way to practice your discipline too.” Tommy’s mother walked out of the closet with a flowing white silk robe that she helped her husband put on. She tied it closed with a golden belt, then stepped back next to the bed to admire him.

“Well, how do I look?” Tommy’s dad asked.

“Good enough that I want to be buried in there with you,” his wife said with a wink.

“Well, I’m sure the council wouldn’t have a problem with sneaking you to the next life with me. Married couples do it all the time with bigger age differences.”

“Oh, don’t tease me,” she said. “I might take you up on it.”

“You should,” he grinned.

“Yeah, mom! GOOO!” Tommy cheered.

“I couldn’t…,” she gave a mild protest. “I’m not ready. And who would take care of Tommy?” At that moment, father and son perfectly resembled each other. Two pairs of large brown eyes rolled upward in their heads. Tommy’s dad walked forward and wrapped his arms around his wife.

“You act like there haven’t been procedures in place for this kind of thing for hundreds of years,” he said. “He gets everything instead of you,” he shrugged. “No big deal. It’s not like the council is going to let him slack on his studies.”

“I…,” she hesitated and looked down at her son. “Would you really be okay with it?” she asked. Tommy stood from the bed, crossed his arms, and screwed his face up into a scowl.

“NO!” he said. His sudden, harsh tone surprised both his parents. “I REFUSE to let my mom have the happiest day of her life ever…,” he planned to keep the act up longer. However, that was as far as he made it before the boy burst into giggles. His parents sighed in relief when the laughter started.

“Of course you can go,” he smiled but his tone sounded melancholy, but his mother identified a tiny bit of jealousy too. “I can’t wait ’til I turn 40…”

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