23 July 2013

Life in the Middle Ages

[excerpted from Parade, July 21, 2013]
When I was 30, I read Gail Godwin’s novel The Finishing School. One particular passage, in which 44-year-old Ursula advises 14-year-old Justin about aging, scared me so much that I wrote it down and carried it in my wallet for years:

There are two kinds of people … One kind, you can tell just by looking at them at what point they congealed into their final selves. It might be a very nice self, but you know you can expect no more surprises from it. Whereas, the other kind keeps moving, changing. With these people, you can never say, “X stops here,” or “Now I know all there is to know about Y.” That doesn’t mean they’re unstable. Ah, no, far from it. They are fluid. They keep moving forward and making new trysts with life, and the motion of it keeps them young. In my opinion, they are the only people who are still alive.

[Excerpted from Parade, July 21,2013]

Yikes. I vowed to grow like the weed you can’t kill. This year, I’m an American water willow. Last year, I was a hairy bittercress.

Memories tumble out and sustain me. The other day I was dusting a crisscross of Popsicle sticks my daughter had made in first grade. “The best mother,” the faded ink reads.

Immediately, I am a newly single mom, walking into her elementary school for open house. A flock of parents giggle as they lean in to read something on the bulletin board. One of them spots me, and off they go.
Slowly, I approach the board and recognize my daughter’s drawing of me. “My mother is a bit eccentric,” her essay begins. “She has longer hair than other mothers. She is getting a divorce, but we don’t call it that. Mom says she’s having a growth spurt.”

-Connie Schultz


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