Riddle of the Sphinx: What is the creature that walks on four legs in the morning, two legs at noon and three in the evening?
Answer (Spoiler alert): Man
Although I wrote a post called Riddle of the Sphinxes back in 2006, I am not repeating myself. I have just been thinking about the stages of life that the riddle refers to (crawling on four legs as a baby, walking on two legs as an adult and hobbling along with a cane as a senior citizen).
First, the Sphinx oversimplified a great deal. I think there are quite a few stages in between but the riddle would have become quite long if the Sphinx had tried to cover them all (i.e. What is the creature that lies there crying most of the wee hours of the morning and smiles when it has gas, walks on four legs in the morning, stumbles along on two legs at mid-morning, has awkward hair and bad skin just before noon, walks on two legs at noon, sits on it's butt in front of the television mid-day, is still in front of the television eating from a TV tray at early evening and walks on three legs in the evening before stumbling and calling out, "help I've fallen and can't get up."
Oedipus would still have replied, "man."
But I digress.
Although I am not yet walking on three legs, the two I have can get pretty stiff and I don't get up from the floor after playing with my kids or dog in nearly the amount of time I did in earlier stages of my life. Anyway, I was thinking this morning for some reason, about which stage I preferred.
I don't think there is any clear winner. I don't remember much about being a baby and since I was the youngest of three boys, my baby album had maybe two pages of blurry baby photos. My oldest brother's baby album had maybe 50 pages documenting just about every minute of his babyhood. My mother informed me that you just don't have the energy anymore after the first one or two kids.
I wonder if things would have different if the digital age had arrived when I was a baby. We have literally thousands of photos and videos or our children.
My first real memories are of being four or five. I remember watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan and making fun of how long their hair was. I remember kindergarten and getting in trouble for spewing an entire cup of juice onto the collective worktable because some kid next to me made me laugh.
I remember being a model student in grade school without a modicum of athletic talent. I was on the chubby side and would rather read a book than hit a baseball. Although I remember playing a game of tag where you'd stand on opposite sides of the house and throw a ball over the roof calling, "“Ollie ollie oxen free.” If the ball didn't go over the roof and rolled back down to you, you'd call out "Pig tails." If it went over and the person on the other side caught it, they would run around the house and try to tag you with it.
I never knew why we would call out "ollie, ollie, oxen free." We just did. I googled it and apparently it relates to many games of tag and old English. Something like, "all ye, all ye come in free."
I remember the awkward years of puberty and junior high. And the still awkward years of coming of age in high school and the feelings of insecurity that never quite went away. I remember years of marching band. I remember hating PE because, although I lost my baby fat, I didn't replace it with any more athletic ability.
I remember working shelving books at a public library for my first job and eventually becoming a circulation clerk. I remember being a weekend computer operator at the state Department of Transportation and work with a main frame computer that filled a large room but probably had less computing power than the desktop I'm working on now.
I remember moving away to finish college in Seattle and living in a dorm room the size of my current office. I remember having a Japanese roommate from Tokyo who rarely left the room and could get drunk off from half a beer. He pissed next to my bed one Halloween after partying with some of his friends in one of the other dorms. I eventually requested a single room.
I remember graduating from college with a degree in Journalism without a clue as to what I was going to do with my life. I remember turning 25 and thinking I was a quarter of a century old and getting ancient with each breath. I remember buying my first house at 30 and quickly growing tired of fixing holes in the wall and leaky roofs.
I remember buying my first new car that didn't come without someone else's maintenance problems. I remember owning four cats, a gold fish and a pet rat. I remember living alone for 18 years until I finally met my wife to be. I remember getting married on a cruise ship. I remember buying a brand new house that didn't come with someone else's maintenance problems. I remember the births of my two children.
I remember holidays. I remember stringing lights on roofs. I remember building snowmen. I remember taking my kids camping for the first time. And I remember their crawling and walking and riding bikes for the first time. I remember their first days of school and losing their first teeth.
I also remember the deaths of my parents and my family home being sold and torn down.
Which stage of the riddle is the best?
I haven't got a clue.