Why is it that, even when one feels bright and alive and full of anticipation, something can suddenly pop out and announce, “You aren’t sixteen–or twenty-six–or even thirty-six–anymore”? It could be a favorite song that’s suddenly become ‘classic’. Or the scent of a long-forgotten cologne. Or it could be that beloved granddaughter coming over with a special request–”I want to wear something vintage to the school dance so could I borrow that dress you have in the cedar closet, Grandmother?”
Any one of those instances would probably have called up a memory for me, one that would have given me a quick smile, a moment of nostalgia, and then passed out of memory as the next project took my attention. All of them? All on the same day? That might give me goose bumps but nothing more. First it was that song, Misty, that was playing in the background. Just a couple of bars of music seeping out of the lounge next to the restaurant where I intended to have lunch, just a few notes, and I was seventeen and hunting for the perfect party dress for the junior-senior mixer. The ‘seventeen again’ moment was still with me as the hostess guided me to my table and a drift of lilac cologne followed us for a few steps. I glanced aside, somehow expecting my little grandmother, gone for almost thirty years now, to be standing right beside me. And I was a young girl again for just a second before I remembered now I am the grandmother. Still those little inklings that time had flown weren’t enough to make me feel, well, old–maybe just a bit older. Even when my delightful Katie-Rabbit called later that day to ask about borrowing the dress I put away long before her mother was born, that wasn’t enough to focus my mind on the years slipping away. No, it took my mailman to do that!
Once my young angel had tried on, modeled and giggled a bit over the beaded bodice, sweeping skirts, and mounds of crinoline petticoats of my ‘vintage’ dress, I settled back to read the snail mail that had accumulated in my box the last few days. Most of my communications, like everyone else these days, comes through my computer. I venture down to the mail box every other day, or sometimes less. The only paper mail I get these days seems to be offers for cremation, reverse mortgages, or anti-aging cosmetics. So it was with some excitement I pulled out the thick, cream-colored square envelope that usually announces an invitation. Yes, it was an invitation–one I couldn’t decline but one I had mixed feelings about accepting.
YOU ARE INVITED TO JOIN US, YOUR CLASSMATES, IN CELEBRATING THE FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY OF OUR GRADUATION !!
Now hearing the song of my youth, catching the sweet lilac perfume of my childhood, even listening to my granddaughter make quips about my ‘old-timey’ dress hadn’t made me feel anything but a bit of nostalgia. But a reminder that it’s been fifty years since my high school graduation??? That made me feel ancient. Can it be? Have fifty years, half a century, passed since I was that misty-eyed, ever-hopeful young girl about to tackle the world armed with four years of French, all the good manners the sisters at St. Elizabeth could instill, and a firm belief that I could do anything I was big enough to try?
Truth is, yes, it has been fifty years. And I guess, technically, that makes me one of the older generation. But I refuse to accept that other word, o-l-d. Not as long as I can still giggle with Katie-Rabbit or dance the twist with my number one daughter. Not as long as I can walk in the moonlight with a handsome–albeit white-haired–Courtly Knight. Or as long as I can play in the rain, dream a new dream, or plan another adventure. Grandmother could touch her toes a hundred times when she was eighty-five. Mom at eighty-eight is still a force to be reckoned with in local politics. I’m just a green kid compared to them. So it’s been fifty years! So what? Fifty is only a number. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Meanwhile, there’s a world out there to see, a host of stories just waiting to be told, and–oh, yes, I need a new dress for the dance Saturday night. Come along, you young things of fifty, sixty, seventy-whatever. We’re just now old enough to have some fun. Pop the popcorn, get the music going. Party’s at my place!
DON’T CALL ME DARLIN’
BLACK RAIN RISING
ELOPEMENT FOR ONE
HALF PAST MOURNING
CRY AGAINST THE WIND (forthcoming)