An Honor To Meet Her
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.