Turning a Page

This pwatchast weekend I attended a memorial service for my aunt and uncle — a couple well into their nineties when they died within months of one another, having lived long, fun-filled lives.  My aunt was the youngest of my mother’s two sisters and the last of nine siblings to pass.

Most of us attending the service were cousins.  We had all grown up together and spent many hours at family outings. A subset spent many more hours playing while the three sisters laughed and visited over coffee.

We also had to re-introduce ourselves to one another, not recognizing our childhood playmates. In some cases, almost forty years had passed since we had last seen one another.

It was a bittersweet reception that followed, catching up, watching old extended family movies, laughing and sharing memories, highlights of our lives, children and grandchildren.  We reminisced about the family picnics in Stevens Creek and Huddart Parks, the splashing and netting crayfish in the meandering streams and pools, Thanksgiving evenings at my family’s home, and the weekends at the Pope Estate at Lake Tahoe, where one of the brothers was the grounds keeper. 

As the Pope family only visited once a year, we had our “own” private beach, complete with roaring bonfires, bar-b-ques and s’mores.  I can still see my elderly grandmother, in her early 60’s, quietly sitting in her chair, smiling and watching over her brood of twenty-some young grandchildren frolicking in the very cold and crystal clear lake.

Those of us at the memorial service agreed it would be a fun idea to get the remaining cousins together once a year, especially as nearly a quarter of us have already passed. 

Fun, yes, and also a tad sobering, recognizing that we are now the oldest generation living.

While I’m not the most senior of the group, this is my year of turning Seventy.  The big 7-0.  70. No matter how I write it, it looks old. 

Not so long ago, that 7-0 seemed so very ancient, so far off, so decrepit, so…oh, one foot in the grave and the other not too far behind.

It’s not that old, even though I don’t buy the current mantra of 60 being the 40, 70 being the new 50 and so on.  My body and mind don’t lie and both are daily reminders that I am no longer as young as I’d like to pretend to be.

I am aging no matter how it’s framed and, while I may not be as rocking-chair ready as my grandmother, I am nonetheless on the downhill side of life and that downhill trajectory sometimes feels like it is traveling at warp speed.

Even now, I realize there are life chapters that have closed — and probably not necessary to re-live — and dreams that may never be realized.

And yet…  And yet… 

There are still adventures to be had, dreams to be dreamt, and life to be experienced.

I wonder at times if fear and angst are the true shadow culprits that snake around the edges of an aging body or mind, painting a person’s world so much smaller and intimidating than it needs to be?

Of course, fear and angst can accomplish that task regardless of a person’s age.

The challenge may well be in keeping minds and hearts open to new possibilities ~ embracing new ideas, learning from misadventures and contributing to the world and people around us.

ah, 70, big deal. It’ll just be another day, another year. I think I’d rather focus on those adventures still to be experienced ~

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autumn Leaves

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Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of the year, but, given our mild weather, it is not a season we Californians fully celebrate.  We seem to slide from summer to Indian Summer and then suddenly, it’s overcast and rainy.  Well, sometimes rainy.  We’ve been in a severe drought the past few years and are beginning to forget what rain is.

A long time past, I lived in Pennsylvania for almost a year.  They definitely embrace autumn.  I have a vivid memory of stepping outside to retrieve the mail, an apple in hand.  I could smell the dampness of an early rain as I walked into the crisp fall air, surrounded by flurries of falling orange, red and yellow leaves. Walking down the long drive to the mailbox, I bit into the crisp, cold, so very sweet apple and in that moment knew that it was the taste of autumn.

Last spring, I moved to the Sierra foothills, an area that does believe in autumn despite the drought.  With the lack of water, the leaves are struggling to change colors although, as you can see, there are still some very vibrant red, yellow and orange leaves decorating the landscape. While I haven’t found an apple quite as crisp as the Pennsylvania one, the memory remains and surfaces now and again as I walk amid the color and dried leaves swirling to the ground.

For me, autumn brings the end of another cycle and another year.  It’s a time of quiet reflection and review. Am I on the path I supposed to be walking or simply wandering in the woods enjoying the view?

This is the first time in my life where there has been little drive or passion. No to-do list; no have-to list. A blank piece of paper.  I always assumed there was a reason for one’s existence, une rasion d’être, but now, at this stage, that too seems to have gone missing.

There’s an admitted calm and bit of disconnect from the more grueling aspects of life.  Perhaps it’s a function of age; perhaps a function of location.  Nonetheless, the mind wanders and wonders although, for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you what about.

A few weeks ago, I went in search of an artificial Christmas tree, as my last one looked a bit too sad last year.  I stood next to another woman, about my age, as we evaluated the artificial forest before us.

She asked what I was thinking.

I was honest.  I’m looking at the prices, wondering how many more Christmases I’ll have, and whether the investment will be worth it.

She smiled and said she was thinking something similar.  I remember my mother teasing about getting too old to buy green bananas. Maybe she wasn’t teasing as much as I thought.

My friend Bill puts things in a slightly different way. He says to get a long measuring tape, measure out one inch for each year you’ve lived and then add another inch for each year you hope to live.  It’s certainly a sobering exercise.

Autumn is indeed a gentle time, and at the same time, there is a chill in the air bringing the promise that the next season is on the cusp of arriving. Sometimes, not often, I wonder what it will bring.

In the meantime, lacking a really crisp, cold, so very sweet apple, I think I’ll put an apple in the oven to bake while I watch the leaves just a little longer.

Old Copper Pots

It was a long awaited trip to France and exceeding all my expectations. I had met my good friend Ann, who was living in Brussels, and together we had driven through Belgium into Normandy, spent a night at an old chateau, climbed Mont San Michel’s well-worn steps to the very top and then stopped in Villedieu-les-Poêles, an old medieval village famous for its copper, on our way to Paris.

I wanted to purchase a set of old copper pots, ones that looked like they had been well used and loved for a hundred years or more. Give me France and the romance of almost any subject just takes over.

copper We walked into one centuries old shop after another, overwhelmed by brilliant copper pots and pans that lined the walls. The juxtaposition of the ancient buildings and brand new copper was jarring. The new copper was so shiny it was blinding.

These were not the copper pots I wanted.

I speak very poor high school French, nothing more.  I had switched my major four different times in college so that I could avoid having to face another foreign language class before realizing that I couldn’t beat the system and struggled through two more semesters of French without learning any more than I had in high school.  Like musical instruments and singing, I have no ear for foreign languages.

That did not stop me from trying to communicate with local residents, much to Ann’s chagrin. She had been attending language classes, becoming proficient in French although not in copper-speak. Ann was initially amused with my efforts, but then began to cringe at my attempts. Admittedly, I was pretty pathetic.

We continued my old copper search. No luck. Finally, tucked into a corner of the town square was a small shop where a harried, middle aged sales clerk offered to help. She spoke very poor high school English, a perfect match for my very poor high school French. Between her English, my French and Ann’s translating, the clerk finally understood what I wanted and looked horrified.

Mais, non!!  she exclaimed.  She went on to explain, the best she could given the language challenges, that one does not purchase, and copper shops especially in world-famous Villedieu-les-Poêles would never sell, the tarnished, well-patina-ed copper pots I sought.

I must have looked terribly disappointed because the clerk stepped back, probably taking pity on me, a nice but very ignorant American tourist who had tried her best to converse in French. She shook her head and motioned us through an old doorway into a dank, darkened anteroom. The three of us proceeded very gingerly down an old wooden staircase with creaky steps to the depths of the shop’s cellar.  Now Ann looked horrified.

The clerk pointed to a pile of well-tarnished sets of copper pots in the corner of the cellar. I lit up like a Christmas tree.

IMG_2438Mais, oui!!  I exclaimed. There they were, the set of antique copper pots I wanted.

She cringed and explained, in very broken English and very simple French, that these were seconds and not worthy of being sold. The tarnish and patina I so loved was from never having been polished, not age nor use.

It didn’t matter. Those were the pots I wanted.

Before she let me pay a meager amount for the set, I had to promise I would never, ever divulge the name of the shop that would sell such inferior items to an American tourist. Their reputation would be ruined for all eternity.

So, if you travel to France, and find yourself seeking well tarnished, faux antique copper pots in the tiny village of Villedieu-les-Poêles, you’re on your own, except now you’ll know to ask to see the copper pots in the cellar.

Puis-je s’il vous plaît voir les pots en cuivre dans la cave?

Four Women and a Cute Red Convertible

It was in the midst of summer break and an August heat wave. Everyone was baking. I had planned on staying right in front of a fan and window air conditioner, reading a light novel, when the service department at my car dealership called.

We’ve had a cancellation and can take your car.  Can you bring it in late this afternoon?

Sure, but I’ll need a loaner.  I grimaced at the thought of going out in the heat but my car was overdue for its service.

When I got to the dealership, there only one loaner available, a cute red convertible. 

oh, what a shame.

I drove home and into the driveway as Sabra pulled up behind me.

A convertible? In this heat? Beach!!

We threw a couple of sweatshirts in the trunk — this is California weather, after all — jumped in and took off.

Let’s get Jane!

Jane had an out of state girlfriend visiting so we kidnapped both and they hopped in the backseat of the cute red convertible.

Do you want to grab a sweater?

Nah, it’s hot. 

Uh huh.

By the time we hit the freeway, top down, something had happened.  Our hair was blowing wild in the wind, we were laughing and we were singing loudly, if a bit off key, to the songs on the radio from the 60’s. 

It was magical. Suddenly, we were young, we were single, we were free of responsibilities, we were driving in our cute red convertible during an August heat wave and we were headed to the beach.

Jane started flirting with men in any car without a woman.  We joined in the fun. The men were younger than our sons, but it didn’t matter. Most just smiled or ignored us, but a few waved, whistled and flirted back.  We laughed and sang just a bit louder.

Let’s go to the Boardwalk!

The Santa Cruz Boardwalk has been there forever.  The rides are legend and, here we were, four single women in a cute red convertible on a Hot August Night, getting younger by the minute and ready for fun.

Almost immediately we found a parking place with no meter.  Things were definitely going our way.

We jumped out of our cute red convertible, locked it up and headed in.boardwalk 2

Let’s go on the Giant Dipper…

Let’s get cotton candy…

Let’s…

We were right in the thick of things, the crowds, the excitement, the carnie barkers when, one by one, we realized something was amiss.

I was the only one with a wallet.  It held my driver’s license and 32 cents.

Not one of us had brought our purses. Not one of us had a debit or credit card. We were four single women with a cute red convertible on a Hot August Night at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk with, after digging deep into our pockets, a grand total of $1.87.

It wasn’t enough for an ice cream cone, much less a ride on the Giant Dipper or cotton candy, so we pooled our funds and each got our fortune told by an ancient mechanical Grandma.

She wasn’t very good. Then we got hungry.

So we left, getting back in the cute red convertible with the top still down. We were midway over the hill when the heatwave suddenly broke. Fog and cold air poured over the mountain road, as is apt to happen in California. With nowhere to stop to put up the top on our cute red convertible, we froze. Even in our sweatshirts, we froze.  The kidnapped pair in the backseat, without sweatshirts, huddled together, their teeth were chattering. The drive home seemed to take forever.

Sometimes reality can just be so cruel.