Somehow, this weekend, I was half-asleep, listening in the dark for the dog (when I hear her collar jingle I wait to see if she's coming to the bedroom door to give it a scratch, indicating she wants out), when a vivid memory hit my brain like a big yellow balloon, bursting from too much air. It was a memory of my mother.
The year was, actually I don't remember the year. I think my mother was my age, or rather, the age I am now, 65. She was a vibrant woman who loved to laugh. If she was 65, I was 45, and in the 'prime' of my life. I do remember thinking she was old.
The thought jolted me awake. My eyes popped open to stare into the dimly lit bedroom, shocked at the realization that I was now the old I once thought my mother was.
Tom's snoring was soft, just a quiet rumble, as if he had his face turned to the pillow. I was grateful for that. For the silence of the early morning that allowed me to think, and remember.
We were on a trip. A trip to visit my younger sister in Philadelphia. If she sees this post she will reprimand me for forgetting the year. I am forever losing that ability - to remember when something happened. I can remember events and food and trips and excitement, just not when it all occurred.
This trips was one of the most amazing trips of my life. My two older sisters, Jan and Sue, were with us, with my mother and me. We somehow decided it was time for an all-girl road trip, where this family of strong women would travel from Upstate NY to Philadelphia, and spend a few days with the baby of the family. I so remember the laughter on the ride down. I remember hilarity over...well, nothing. It was as if we were all schoolgirls again. We made jokes about nothing, laughed at each other, sang songs and generally caused a ruckus in our own little bubbled, as we each took turns driving. (and I will get reprimanded for that, also, as I am pretty sure I never took the wheel... with Jan and Sue and my Mom in the car, I wasn't needed to drive - which suited me just fine; I am not fond of driving)
Once at my sister's home, we were assigned rooms. Or sleeping arrangements. I don't remember a whole lot about where the bed was that I slept in. I only remember that my Mom and I decided we'd share a bed, so Jan and Sue could share a bed.
It was a logical arrangement. In the family, my mother and I lived together as I grew up, and my older sisters lived together, as they grew up. This happens in divorce. The two older children were assigned to live with my father and step-mother, while I was left with my mother and step-father. My younger brother and sister were born afterwards. Within in our little house, I was the eldest. If I chanced to visit my Dad, I was the youngest. And, when we all got together, I was the middle child.
As I lay in the dark, just the other night, remembering this trip, feeling the smile on my face and the silent laughter I held in because the trip was full of fun and laughter and I never think of it without laughing, I was so shocked to realize I'd become...my mother. We all do, don't we?
But this was different. This was a sudden realization that at 65 years of age, back then, though I thought of her as old, my mother wasn't old. No more than I am old. She was old in a different way, because we did, at that time, think anyone - woman or man - over the age of 60 was ready to be put out to pasture, as they say. We, the young of the day and let's be clear, at 45, I was not young. Not by any standards. Even today, women of that age are discriminated against...merely because they have achieved such a high birthday number. But, in that time, at that moment, I recall the way my mother was full of energy, full of enthusiasm for life, and just as silly as we were - we who were her children, her girls, her offspring.
I can look back, in my mind's eye, and see her blue eyes and white hair all permed and pretty. And I glimpse a little envy. I can see her looking at us with sadness. Because, once, she thinks to herself, once I was young and beautiful like they are.
It's not a bad envy. There is no wicked witch deep green to this envy. It's just a realization. Mostly that society has nudged her aside, in favor of us. And, of our girl children.
I almost see her sigh and come back into the conversation, silliness over making coffee or something other nonsensical event in the kitchen of MaryAnne's home, there in cool Philadelphia. I see her accept that time has had its way with her and though she is younger in appearance than her years, though she has not given in to the cruelty of old-age, she cannot compete any longer. Women her age are ... all the same. Society lumps them together, as non-descript clay; there is little color or vibrancy to them, little distinction. They are as they will now forever be...old women.
As I turn over in my bed, pulling the covers up to my neck, locking out the cold of a March dawn as it rises over the mountains that are so far away and yet not so far away, I know that I have become an old-woman. Less so than my mother at this age, because both time and society have been kinder to me, than they were to her. But, I am old nonetheless.
It's a comfort, however, to know that I can define my oldness. I need not stay hidden in the shadows. Today, I will dress in red and purple; I will make up my face and wear a beautiful hat if I choose; I will dance and I will lock arms with my daughters, and I will brush off the label society wants to pin on me. I will be old in ways this world has never seen before.
Because I am still...me. As my mother was still her... and as so many women today are who they are, despite their age or weight or place in society.
We will Rise Up and Be Counted. We will Rise Up and Be Proud. We will Rise Up and Take Charge.
We, the women, of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.