REMEMBRANCE OF PAST THINGS

For those of us who have had an extended adulthood, besides thanking our lucky stars, we also have the luxury of reflection. I don’t like to look back much, but today I don’t have anything better to do. So I have been thinking of my youth.

I came of age just when Gloria Steinem and Bella Abzug were in their prime. Well, I am not sure that Bella ever had a “prime,” but it is interesting what the women’s lib movement wrought upon my generation of females. We worked. We got married—at least most of us, and we had children. And we kept on working. This was perhaps the first generation of women who simultaneously wore suits and pearls while packing lunches. As a working mother, I learned the importance of keeping an extra pair of pantyhose in my purse, along with the phone number of the pediatrician, a mini box of raisins, and a diaper. Be prepared.

My generation supposedly engaged in “free love.” I didn’t. I wish I had. But although there wasn’t AIDS yet, and we could forge our parents’ signatures to get birth control pills, I was a chicken. So instead of having lots of lust and multiple boyfriends, I got married at age 20. I traded the lots of lust for one great guy, tons of laughs, hamburger helper, and a little lust.

I never kept a perfect house. Not that I would WANT anyone to eat off the floor. But I would have loved having shiny surfaces and fewer dust balls. I don’t think either one of my children knows the meaning of the term “spring housecleaning.” And in the case of one of them, the word “housecleaning” might bring a questioning look.

I have never made pickles, a cake from scratch, or my own sausage—all things that my mother did frequently. But she never went to the movies by herself, plucked her eyebrows, used a tampon, or drank a gin and tonic sitting in a bar. She was no slouch in the lust department, though. She used to love telling the story about the time she walked home in high dudgeon from an evening with a young man whose backseat converted into a mattress. The most exciting date story I have is the one about the guy whose apartment bathroom had no door, and I nearly burst.

So here are the things I should have done: dated at least one bad boy or jazz musician. Learned the difference between Merlot and Syrah. Developed a taste for spicy food and swarthy men. Made a fool of myself over a man in public. Practiced walking in five inch heels, so I could still be wearing them now. I ought to have dried my hair out on a roof, said the “F” word before I turned fifty, and for pity’s sake learned to tread water. I think I might have loved having my very own apartment, with jade green walls, a terrace with exotic plants, no roommates, and a cat.

Oh, and while I am reflecting on things past—I must go on record to say that although she was very, very, pretty and made high grades, my older sister was NOT perfect. They never believed that she concocted the whole “you pick all the buds off the peony bush outside. They make great marbles” caper, which resulted in my getting switched from a branch of the bush—you guessed it—chosen by that very same, gleeful older sister. I couldn’t walk for at least thirty seconds afterward. I called for a stretcher, but there were no takers. My parents went to their graves thinking I was the sole perpetrator, but now I have set the record straight. I feel vindicated at last.

Reflection can be good for the soul. At least my soul. I think my sister’s soul may be a little tinged with black…

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