Stopped at a traffic light, I turn on my left turn signal. The car in front of me also signals a left turn. The blinking of our lights are far apart, but soon, they get closer and closer, until, for a moment, they blink in perfect synchronicity. Then the sequence is off and gets wider. Before I can enjoy another cycle, the traffic light changes and we go our separate ways.
That was how I managed my traffic light boredom, before smartphones let me check emails and send quick texts. But the blinking sequence always struck me as a metaphor for how the years between me and my older brother or parents seemed so far apart, then so close, only to widen again.
In my youth, those relationships were miles apart. My older brother seemed worldly and wise, and my parents were of an age I hoped never to reach. In those teen years, daughters fought with mothers, and sons thought fathers were hopelessly out of touch.
With age, the family lights blink closer together. My brother and I became peers, daughters share intimate details with their new-found friend of a mother; and fathers play competitive tennis with their sons.
Even adults of unquestionable authority, like teachers, evolve into valued peers. A few years ago, a school reunion included one of my favorites -- Mr. Gist, who taught English and Literature. At the reception I spotted Mr. Gist across the room, and said to a classmate, "Hey, there's Mr. Gist. If we're 50, he must be ancient." Turned out Mr. Gist was only 59. Our lights were blinking together that evening.