This week, my husband and I treated ourselves to dinner at our favorite restaurant.
We only eat there once or twice a year. First, because it is fabulously expensive. And second, because it keeps it fabulously special. But oh my, it is fabulous. A charming setting with fine French cuisine exquisitely prepared and served.
Soon after we were seated, an old woman came in. She used a walker and the maitre d’ assisted her to her table. She smiled at us as she sat down and said, “I am allowed to have a little extra help these days because I am one hundred years old.”
Well. She looked old, but one hundred? She was flamboyantly dressed – bright colors and flowy materials, lots of jewelry, generous makeup, and a large royal blue hat.
The waiter offered to bring her a drink while she waited for her dinner companions, but she said what she really wanted was a small table for her hat.
“I don’t think we have anything like that,” said the waiter.
“Oh, yes you do,” she replied. “I eat here regularly and I always have a table for my hat.”
And the waiter went to the maitre d’ who soon came over with a little makeshift table. With a tablecloth.
Her friends came in – a couple also also very old, but probably not a hundred. The thought crossed my mind that if the gentleman were 80, he was “young” enough to be her son. He was certainly solicitous of his wife – a frail tiny woman who also had a walker – he went back to the car for her pillow and her lap blanket, and after much discussion, he ordered for all of them. His manners were old-fashioned and impeccable.
My husband and I had our glorious, leisurely meal. We love the five-course tasting menu – so many small dishes to savor. (My favorite course, which I mention for no other reason but to enjoy it again in my mind, was the arugula ravioli in a white truffle sauce. Not that there was anything wrong with the rack of lamb. Or the chocolate souffle.)
After coffee, before our long drive home, I excused myself to use the restroom. When I returned, my husband was conversing with the old woman and her companions. This didn’t surprise me in the least. My husband engages with everyone everywhere – which is a nice offset to my public shyness. I meet the most interesting people because he just naturally makes friends with everyone.
And that evening was no exception.
I joined my husband at the old woman’s table and introduced myself.
And the old woman introduced herself too, in a quite extraordinary way. I will not give you her name, because she did not know that I am a writer, and this was not an interview. But after she told me her name, she added,
“I’m a famous TV producer. I’ve won many, many awards.”
“Well, it’s a great honor to meet you,” I replied, as I shook her gentle, but not weak, hand.
We left the restaurant shortly afterwards.
And as soon as we got to the car, I pulled out my phone and googled the woman.
She wasn’t exaggerating. She WAS a famous producer. The winner of several Emmy and Peabody awards. And she was one hundred years old.
I read her biography on Wikipedia and several news and feature articles on the drive home.
She didn’t start out with a career in television or media. She had a very practical education and worked in a very mundane job. She took time for her family. It was through some volunteer work that she had the opportunity to produce her first documentary. And she not only excelled – she fell in love with the new talent. And it became her new life.
I thought about our short exchange, I realized that I had been right. It was indeed a great honor to meet her.
She reinvented herself. From an ordinary nine-to-fiver to a world-class producer. Imagine that! Imagine having the confidence to believe that you can produce a documentary when you have no experience in it.
And she’s courageous. Imagine the doubts you might have, but then – you are brave enough to do it anyway.
And imagine discovering a talent – a genius – that others recognized and rewarded.
It was an honor to meet her for her accomplishments.
It was an honor to meet her for her creativity.
It was an honor to meet her for her character.
She’s proud of her age. She isn’t afraid to be old. She used a walker. She needed assistance to be seated. But on the other hand, she wasn’t surrendering either. Her hair was not gray. Her clothing wasn’t drab. She was fanciful and alive in every way.
She wasn’t modest. I was tickled that she introduced herself as “famous.” She’s 100. Does she have time to beat around the bush? Coyness and centenarianism aren’t compatible.
Yes, for bragging rights’ sake alone, it is an honor to meet a famous person.
But what if she weren’t? What if it had turned out that she just had some mild dementia – and she was just a crazy old lady?
An old lady with a great imagination and flamboyant wardrobe.
Still a great honor.
A great honor to meet the old lady that I am hoping to be.
A grand old dame with a table for her hat.
This week a friend posted the following quote on her Facebook page:
And I thought –
Yeah! That’s Me! That’s Totally Me!
And I started to reflect on all those decisions I made that were difficult, but were best for me. Like dropping out of school years ago (I did go back later), changing jobs, and most recently, retiring.
And looking over those decisions, I see that I might have to change that little epigram a bit:
Yeah! That’s Me! That’s Totally Me!
The sentence didn’t quite work with “I never feel bad”. “
I always feel bad” – well, that’s probably a little closer to the truth.
Difficult decisions are difficult BECAUSE you are not just choosing to go on to something wonderful. You are also leaving something behind. Changing jobs means leaving friends, and leaving behind the known for the unknown. As much as you think the new job will be fantastic – after all, that’s why you are leaving – you’re not SURE of that. Important choices are always filled with a fear of regret.
Major decisions are harrowing.
And how about decisions that you make that perhaps aren’t best for you?
Of course we make those decisions all the time.
I know someone who left a job he liked because he needed medical insurance for a sick kid. I know someone who moved away from her family because her husband had a great job opportunity. And I know tons of people who do favors for others all the time – when they really would rather say no.
So let me tweak that saying just a bit further:
Yeah! That’s Me! That’s Totally Me!
I’m not exactly Mother Teresa, but I can give someone a ride to the car dealer, or visit a sick friend in the hospital when I had originally planned a beach day. Or let my staff get credit for work I did myself. Because when it comes right down to it, helping other people feels pretty good.
And you know what also feels pretty good sometimes? Being bad feels good.
So then the adage could also be:
Yeah! That’s Me! That’s Totally Me!
I can stop on the way home from Yoga and buy a bag of potato chips and eat them all in the car. I can dance all night in shoes that hurt. I can go to the drugstore for bandaids (for mysterious blisters) and come home with four new lipsticks.
But mostly – overwhelmingly – whether I am doing good stuff for me or bad stuff for me, the truth is:
I don’t know how things will turn out.
I am groping my way through Life. Hoping that as I grope, I clasp onto the handle side of the knife. That the stray dog will kiss me and not bite me.
That as I close my eyes at the end of the day, I will be smiling. That perhaps, accidentally, I did what was right.
Because my epigram must be:
Yeah! That’s Me! That’s Totally Me!
I hate Criticism.
Constructive or destructive – don’t tell ME what you don’t like about me! I don’t want to hear it.
Over the years, I have discovered that I can kind of do Criticism if I just take my time. Let it slowly work its way into my consciousness. Criticism has a big barrier of Defensiveness that it must climb its way over. And it can’t do that it one big leap. It has to inch itself up one toenail at a time.
Of course, now I have created this Criticism-Toes-In-The-Crevice analogy that was not really the one I wanted to use. But don’t criticize me, okay?
Here’s the analogy for accepting Criticism that I prefer:
The Doggy Bag of Criticism.
I think of Criticism like some leftovers from a restaurant.
Say you are in the restaurant and your food is really late in getting to the table. The chef feels a little bad that the kitchen is so backed up, so he has the waiter bring you an appetizer on the house.
But you didn’t order this appetizer. And it doesn’t even particularly appeal to you.
And you don’t want to spoil your appetite for when you finally get your main course. And you are even a bit afraid that the appetizer might contain something you’re allergic to. You’re suspicious.
This could make you sick. This could kill you.
You think it looks a bit like an oyster sitting on a yellow mushroom with a topping that looks a bit like peanut-butter-and-jelly.
This uninvited offering sits on the table. It’s there. It’s not going away. But you are trying really hard not to look at it.
But it’s food. And it was free. And you don’t want to be rude.
Thankfully, your Real Food arrives.
Being a nice person, you don’t want to tell the waiter to take away the unbidden
piece of shit gift. So you ask for a doggy bag – telling the waiter very nicely that you’ll save that delicious-looking amuse-bouche for tomorrow.
So you bring it home. Luckily, it is wrapped in aluminum foil, so you don’t really have to look at it at all. But you can’t really bring yourself to throw it away either. So you put it in the freezer.
And about a month later, as you rummage through the freezer for the pound cake you hid from your spouse, you come upon this aluminum foil packet, and you’re not even sure what it is. So you unwrap it.
And there it is. That oyster/mushroom/pb&j thing. Frozen, it doesn’t look quite so bad. But you’ve recently been a little worried about aluminum foil and whether it causes dementia – even though that idea is probably demented in itself. So although you don’t really want to eat that tidbit right now, you don’t wrap it back into the questionable foil; you put it into a little baggie. That way you can see what it is without having to take it out and examine it.
And for the next two months or so, every time you open the freezer, there’s that appetizer. You’re getting used to seeing it. It’s actually looking pretty harmless. Sometimes you even pick it up. Not that you want to eat it or anything. You just need to make room for the chocolate ice cream.
But then it happens.
You have a craving for a snack, and open the freezer, and the chocolate ice cream is gone. And you pick up that baggie with the little freebie appetizer – which was really given to you as a gesture of kindness.
And you wonder if it would kill you to take a taste.
So you pop it in the microwave. The smell is not awful. In fact, it smells kind of like gruyere cheese.
And you take the teeniest tiniest little bite. It IS cheese. And the PB&J stuff is a kind of tapenade. It’s not so bad.
The thing that looked sort of like a slimy oyster – well, that IS a slimy oyster.
But you know what? It didn’t kill you.
You digested it. That part anyway that you didn’t spit out and toss right down the garbage disposal.
Parts of that appetizer were okay. And you survived the part you didn’t like.
And it nourished you.
It saved you from – well, maybe not a lot – let’s say minor hunger pangs.
And now you know that you can be brave and eat the parts that taste okay, and let them sustain you – while you are still free to discard the stuff that you don’t like.
Just like Criticism.
I’ve often thought there should be a course in Coping.
Maybe in Junior High. Maybe sooner. Maybe Kindergarten.
But I’m not sure it would help. Can we be taught how to react to stress? Should we all react the same way?
Just recently a friend left for a road trip – a vacation the whole family was excited about – only to have car trouble halfway to their destination. They lost half a day of their precious vacation and were stranded scarily on the side of the highway. … and it cost them a bundle. “We’re fine!” she reported.
At the same time another friend was vacationing at a luxury hotel in an exotic location. And there was no fridge in the room. This was unacceptable.
And yes, I could say the first friend had a great attitude and the second friend had a bad attitude.
But they are not the same people. They do not have the same brain connections. They process stress differently. My friend who wanted a fridge seems to have a bit of OCD (in my perhaps incorrect and inappropriate opinion), and small disruptions can really throw her off balance. It’s not that her expectations are so high; it’s that she needs those expectations to provide order to her perceived chaotic world. She doesn’t need ‘luxury’ – she needs ‘no surprises’.
Then there are two more friends who have completely different reactions to pain. One friend goes to bed for the whole day when he has a headache. The other friend had hip replacement surgery and was up and walking the next day. “I’m fine!” she reported.
So is my first friend here a hypochondriac? Maybe. But maybe his brain perceives pain really strongly. Maybe he hurts something awful.
I won’t deny that I prefer the folks who are cheerful. Who don’t let car trouble or even surgery get them down. Who say, “I’m fine.”
But I can’t feel what others are feeling. And I’m pretty sure the more stressed folks don’t really want to be stressed. They feel what they feel.
Some people can’t bear to visit their sick relatives in the hospital. Some want to sit by the bed all day.
Some people want to dance the solo at the talent show. Some people throw up when they have to speak in a business meeting.
Some people can throw a party for 50 without ever running out of shrimp or toilet paper. Some people burn the hotdogs and drop the coleslaw when the neighbors come over.
Some people grieve for years at the death of a loved one. Some go back to work the day after the funeral and say, “I’m fine.” And it doesn’t mean they didn’t feel real love or don’t feel real loss now.
And some people can hold their aged cat’s little body and cry and cry.
But some people go into the kitchen and cook and cook, and use every pot and dish and fork. And then cook some more. And they say, “I’m fine.” And it doesn’t mean they didn’t feel real love or don’t feel real loss now.
I think of myself as a very nice person.
But a few days ago, I got a challenge to my niceness.
Something very nice happened to someone I dislike.
And I found myself irritated. Bitter even.
Certainly not nice.
Of course nice things happen to people who don’t deserve it.
And who is a better judge of who deserves it than me?
Well, maybe not me.
So I had to confront the fact that by not being happy when nice things happen to certain people, I may – a tiny bit – actually want bad things to happen to certain people.
That does not make me such a nice person.
I thought about this for quite a long time. At least 35 minutes. Maybe 40.
Because the truth is, it doesn’t take that long to find mistakes in your thinking – as long as you open yourself up to that remote – very remote – possibility that perhaps you sometimes make mistakes in your thinking.
The fault in my reasoning was this:
I was thinking of happiness as if it were a pizza.
Yes, Pizza can be Happiness. Especially like the one above, from Frank Pepe’s in New Haven, voted the best pizza in America.
But the analogy is flawed. Happiness is not like pizza. With pizza, if you take a slice, that means less for me.
But if you find some Happiness, it did not come from my pie.
Happiness is more like Gooseneck Loosestrife.
When I first started gardening. I planted Gooseneck Loosestrife. I read that it was pretty and it was hardy. And was it ever.
If I give some Gooseneck Loosestrife to everyone I know, I would still have more Gooseneck Loosestrife than I originally planted.
You could come over at midnight and take all of it out of the garden bed. And the next morning I would have more of it than you took.
And Happiness is just like that.
Gooseneck Loosestrife – under the ground – is all connected. The plants send out runners and more runners, and that’s why there’s so much of it.
And Happiness is just like that.
It is all connected.
So I return to that person – the person I dislike who just experienced a nice thing.
If that nice thing makes this person feel better, then perhaps she will not be so mean. Because she is happy. And Happiness proliferates just like Gooseneck Loosestrife.
And if this person is happier, I might like her more. This person was someone I disliked. But now she is someone I like.
So I’m going to save some time and just cut out that middle step – the part where I resent the nice thing that happened to not-nice person.
I’ll just go right to the part where I like that something nice happened for her. Because she’s happier, and just like Gooseneck Loosestrife, she’s sending out multitudes of runners and giving me some happiness too.
A few years ago – at this same time of the year, my husband and I went out rather late at night to relax in the hot tub. We went out through the garage, and our path to the patio was well-lit by the motion-detector light that was activated when we opened the garage door.
We were enjoying the contrast of warm water and the cool night air. The night was beautiful and quiet. And because we were so still in the shadow of the garage, the motion detector shut off the light.
We were in pitch darkness. Until we weren’t.
Our eyes adjusted to the darkness. The backyard and the woods around us lit up.
They were everywhere. Hundreds. Twinkling in the blackness.
It was breathtaking.
And if the light had stayed on, we never would have seen it.
I’m reminded of this fortunate spectacle today, because tonight is dark and quiet and as I walked the dog, I heard the coyotes in the distance.
And I’m aware of how much we miss because of the ground lights.
We are overwhelmed with stimuli.
Lights. Sounds. Too much video. Too much audio.
And they overpower the simple things that touch the heart.
So I am contemplating a few of the singular things that have awed me when I have turned down the volume, turned off the lights, and payed attention.
* When I was a little girl, I remember a day at the beach where I found myself lying all alone on the blanket. All the noises of the other kids playing seemed to fade away as the feeling on the sun on my skin became the only sensation in my body. I became aware of how my brain was connected to each spot on my skin. I could think about my right collarbone for example, or my left shin, and I could feel the hot sun on the exact spot I thought about. I was totally amazed at how precisely I could single out each cell of my skin. I think it was the first – but not the last – time I realized how miraculous my brain is. (I still do that when I am lying in the sun – it’s ecstasy.)
* For me, one of the pleasures in a restaurant – (and please, please, give me a quiet restaurant) – is the simple luxury of a soft cloth napkin on my lap. The touch of it to my lips. And the crazy thing is – it’s so easy to do this at home too. Why in the world do I eat every meal at home with a paper napkin by my side? This is my new half-year resolution: real napkins. A blissful small kindness to my face. (And less waste.)
* The very concept of an orchestra is a marvel. What a genius a composer must be to take all those instruments and make them come together in such powerful harmony. Like taking chaos and creating world peace. But what moves me more – what enchants my soul – is the single instrument. Quiet down, all you resounding symphonies! Give me the lone clarinet in the early morning. The melancholy cello as the sun goes down. I am a soloist at heart.
* Today I paid my weekly visit to my mother. As usual, I did her laundry while I was there. As I was putting her things in the washer down in her cellar, I could hear her footsteps above me. Is there a sweeter sound in a quiet house than hearing the footsteps of someone you love? And what pleasure I find in folding her still-warm clothes. I love smoothing her shirts and nightgowns and towels – touching the items she touched and will touch again tomorrow.
* The whole world should stop when a baby laughs. And that smile! Did you ever notice that babies smile with their mouths wide open? Their openness is the full measure of their joy. But mostly when adults smile, we just turn up the corners of our closed mouths. How many years did it take us to learn to temper our joy?
I am going out now to turn out the lights and wait for the fireflies.
Yesterday I stopped at Barnes and Noble for coffee and quiche – not exactly a nourishing lunch, but I like sitting amongst all those sweet books.
And there was a man there – not old, not young – he could have been 40 or 60 – one of those men who are not timeless, but of no particular era at all. And this man, sitting at the little unfancy cafe was singing. He was not paid entertainment. He was not even a busker, trying to make a few dollars with his voice.
No, he was not even singing well. He was not even carrying a tune. I sort of recognized the some of the words of the song he was singing, but I couldn’t quite even decide what song it was. Just some vaguely familiar words with no particular melody at all.
He was not loud. But the tune (if you could call it that) was more than just mumbling to himself.
He had coffee and a laptop computer on the table. He might have been singing along to a video.
He might have been crazy.
Two weeks ago, I wrote that I was feeling melancholoy.
I was sad thinking about how I might be forgotten after I am dead. That I would leave no mark on the world. I want to be remembered. I want my life to have meaning.
But I’ve had a few weeks now to think about what such insignificance might really mean.
And here is the answer:
If no one will remember me in twenty-five years, or even five years, or perhaps even five minutes now …
then what difference does it make…
If I cry during Hallmark commercials?
If my knees creak in Yoga?
If I’m bored by Star Wars?
If I don’t bother to balance my checkbook?
If I wear the same outfit three days in a row?
If I never read War And Peace?
If I put ketchup on my fish?
If I stop putting up a Christmas tree?
If I spend too much money on makeup?
If I write mediocre poetry?
If I sing in Barnes and Noble?
Do you ever find yourself in this situation? … (Oh, please say you do… I do not want to feel like the weirdest person in the room) …
You are getting a bit low on some product – it could be toothpaste or hair spray or even salad dressing, so the next time you are shopping, you pick up a replacement. But because it’s on sale, or it catches your attention, or you are just a fickle brat, you don’t buy the same brand. You try something new.
And then you are so keen to try the new product, you break it out right away. You start using the new toothpaste. You open the new salad dressing.
And the old product, which was just fine, sits there with 10% left in the tube, bottle, can, jar, vial, bag, envelope, box, tub.
And in the fridge, and under the sink, and in the bathroom cabinet are multiple, almost-empty tubes, bottles, cans, jars, vials, bags, envelopes, boxes and tubs. All these lonely vessels abandoned in your eagerness to try something new. Your eagerness, your passion, your obsession to get to the next thing.
Is this an American compulsion? An illness of Western civilization? Or is it part of the universal human experience?
(Or am I alone nuts?)
I am beginning to believe all the nearly-but-not-quite empty containers are indicative of a distinctly American phenomenon:
The Glorification of ‘Moving On’
I believe in Forgiveness. I believe in it with all my heart.
But I also believe there is something wrong with our inability to hold an emotion (or an idea) for any length of time without people thinking we are fixated. That we should just “get over it” – whatever “it” is.
Sometimes it is appropriate to be sad or angry or afraid. And okay to stay that way for a while.
I know people who are considered overwrought because they grieve for a loved one for what is considered “too long”.
I know people who are considered fantatics because they recognize injustice and make it their lives’ work to right that wrong.
I know people who are considered hysterical because insist on answers to questions and will not stop asking those questions.
And all these people are told to “Get Over It” – they should just “Move On”.
It’s as if a short attention span is an admirable state.
And yes, maybe we are happier if we just go on the the next thing, and don’t dwell on anything for very long.
But wouldn’t that also mean that love doesn’t last, and lies don’t matter? And people can hurt us without consequences?
It may not matter if the old jar of moisturizer hangs around in the cabinet because I am distracted by the shiny new one.
But it may matter if I don’t hold my government officials accountable for unethical behavior because I am too distracted by shiny new promises to remember the broken ones.
I for one am resolving to do my part:
I am finishing the Colgate before I open the Crest.
I am finishing the muenster before I open the provolone.
And I am reconsidering all my half-used makeup –
To decide –
which ones are worth keeping
which ones were mistakes I made and need to admit
which ones have clearly gone bad.
Maybe there is an analogy here?
Summer’s here – or just about.
I wore my parka to walk the dog this morning. Tomorrow is supposed to hit 90.
In celebration of almost summer – here’s a post from five years ago.
TAKING MY OWN ADVICE
Time to go to the beach.
In my bathing suit.
Saturday was hot and clear, and so my husband and I got up early. I blew off my Zumba class and put on my new bathing suit. (This is tricky -I need the class in order to wear the swimsuit, but if I go to the class, it will be too late in the day to wear the swimsuit.)
We put the top down on the convertible and went to the beach.
Our little sportscar has a miniscule trunk but we managed to fit: one umbrella, two beach chairs, blanket, cooler, and one big duffel with towels, a change of clothes, sunscreen, and books and magazines. None of the stuff in the duffel will my husband ever use. He won’t go in the water, so doesn’t need the towel. Since he won’t get wet, he won’t need a change of clothes either. He’ll say “Later” on the sunscreen and then fall asleep before he opens his magazine. And of course he’ll come home sunburned (because he will put up the umbrella but won’t lie under it). But it makes him feel better to have all that stuff. Just in case.
All this shit has to be schlepped from the car to the beach, but we’re good at it. Especially because we stop every thirty feet and rest.
Then there’s big decision. What spot on the beach do we take? Being childless, we tend to enjoy watching kids play, but on the other hand, the little monsters can be so LOUD. But if we pick a spot with no kids, then for sure within the hour a family of screamers will park next to us. The best thing to do is to try and fit in between people who have just one kid. Kids don’t yell too much without brothers and sisters.
So my husband spears the umbrella down like Columbus claiming the sand for Spain. I look around. I like what I see. Middle-aged people.
“Perfect,” I say.
I wrote a serious essay two weeks ago – reminding women that they need to enjoy life. “Put on your swimsuit.” I said. “You’ll never be younger or more beautiful than you are right now.”
And these words rang especially true as we all lost wonderful Nora Ephron this week. Nora said, “Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don’t take it off until you’re thirty-four.”
Thank you, Nora. I believe that and I said so.
But practicing what I preach is not always easy.
I want to wear my bathing suit no matter what I look like. But what I want to look like is: GOOD.
This is hard to do amid all the young tan slim beauties in bikinis.
So I don’t want to be near any. (My husband may feel differently.)
I feel much better amongst lumpy thighs and loose upper arms and round bellies. I am glad that the beach is full of imperfect bodies. I’m glad that women are taking my advice and donning their bathing suits and enjoying the beach. But I confess that the petty side of me is glad only if it makes me look better. On the outside, I rejoice when women of all sizes celebrate their bodies. On the inside, I am glad that some of those bodies are older and chubbier than mine.
Mean-spirited it may be, but I felt so good, I walked down to the water. No cover up. And to the bathroom. That pretty much means that I was seen by everyone on the beach. I was tempted however to stop at every blanket and say “I’m sixty-one,” to put my body in context, so to speak.
But then the inevitable happened. A family plunked down their stuff just in front of ours. Mom, teenage daughter, and two young children.
They spoke Russian. I recognize this language well – I’ve watched a lot of Russian mob episodes of “Law and Order.”
My guess – and I always make up a history for everyone I observe – Mom from Russia was one of those mail-order brides. She was now in her mid 40’s. Still attractive, but a little pudgy all around. This is not an ethnic stereotype – just a typical mom stereotype. The teenage daughter was about 18. She was from Mom’s first marriage. The other two kids – a boy around seven and a girl around five – were progeny from Marriage #2. Both husbands are now gone. Mom likes it this way.
It was the eighteen-year-old who caught my attention. Although now that I think about it, she was most probably seventeen. If she were eighteen, she would have had at least one decal…er, tattoo. Navel piercings don’t count in judging age – I think you can have one as soon as you give up your Dora The Explorer beach towel.
Natasha (as I had already named her) was skinny. Really skinny. She showed up in a short ruffled skirt and her baby sister’s undershirt. I was also wearing a little skirt (my tankini is skirted, as befits my age, but no flounce, also befitting my age) and I thought for a moment that she had a tankini too. Then she peeled off her outer layer.
Underneath was the tiniest of bikinis like clear merlot. And beautiful, perfect skin. Lightly tanned.
She was gorgeous. And sullen. But then again she was a teenager. I don’t understand Russian, but I am quite sure she was rude to her mother.
Full of herself, I thought. Out to flaunt her loveliness to all of us ordinary humans. God, I hate young people.
But then the weirdest thing happened.
Natasha turned to lie on her back and I saw that the highest part of her was her jutting hips.
I know someone who had hips like that. Me. I had hips like that. Bony hips.
And I remembered that at seventeen, I had a bikini too. But I wasn’t flaunting my youth. I was trying to seem like a normal teenager. When what I really thought I was… was: Hideous.
If I want women to celebrate their bodies, why wouldn’t I want this girl to rejoice in her loveliness? I wish I had known back then how beautiful I was. I was suddenly certain that Natasha was as self-conscious and insecure now as I was back then.
And I said a little apology to Natasha.
In my mind, of course… why would I ever apologize to a teenager?
I get a little sad sometimes, thinking about how most of my life is already behind me.
Maybe if I’m lucky I’ve got 30% left to live. And maybe only 20%. Maybe less.
I don’t have children. There will not be grandchildren or great-grandchildren. And yet I want to be remembered.
So I write. And I hope some – a few – of my words might last.
I have nieces and nephews. And grandnieces and nephews. They might remember me – their silly, vain, old Aunt Nancy.
I suppose the advantage to being old today is that I will die before the planet does. It may be a blessing that I have no grandchildren or great-grandchildren who will suffer as the planet deteriorates.
But I do love those nieces and nephews and their children. And their children’s children, even though I don’t know them yet. I love them already.
So this week is especially sad.
I want all those future children – the ones who might rememeber me and the ones who don’t – to see and hear and feel the wondrous things I had the privilege of experiencing while on this earth.
I wish for my great-great grandnephews and nieces:
The squawk of a seagull as it swoops along the shoreline
Warm summer mornings when the dew rises as steam off green blades of grass
Snow swirling in the streetlights in the middle of the night and in the morning, icicles so heavy the door won’t open.
A little fox stopping by a puddle for a drink. Chipmunks stealing the strawberries. Deer at the birdfeeders.
Fields of daffodils at the end of April
Skies so blue that artists cry for the beauty and their ultimate inadequacy
Proud mamas and new babies
The diligent superhero of an ant carrying a crumb three times its size.
The thick lush carpet of autumn leaves.
Hiding in the cool silence under the branches of an ancient weeping birch.
I will not be here.
I may not be remembered.
But it may be enough if our beautiful earth is still here.