Friday, March 6, 2009

A Birthday Memory

I had come to Britain some years back to observe the occasion of my fortieth birthday with the half hearted hope that by not being in the actual country of my birth on the actual date, perhaps it wouldn’t really count, or even, by some magical quirk in the time- space continuum, the numbers attributed to my age account might happily begin to reverse. I was not exactly certain what I was supposed to be feeling. It seemed as though this particular age I was facing was meant to serve as a milestone of sorts, especially for a woman. After all, there were specialized magazines for “women over forty”, women in the public eye seemed to have careers divided into before - and after - forty, and it seemed as though everything from fashion to health care moved into separate categories at this advanced age, categories heretofore uncharted and not exactly welcoming. Was I supposed to feel differently now? Was a cultural shroud being fashioned for me at this very moment; my very own cloak of invisibility that was the requisite uniform for antediluvian women like myself? I had never before defined myself by any sort of category. Would I be forced to now?

I sat in a cafe in Bath pondering all this one damp and chilly afternoon, when the door suddenly blew open and I turned to see a quite beautiful lady of a certain age enter. She was an exquisite creature, clad in an exotic ensemble of black and grey, complete with a most fetching hat worn over enviable blonde hair, and followed closely by a tweedy gentleman, obviously younger, and obviously besotted. She arranged herself at the table next to mine thereby providing me with a observation point that I took full advantage of. Indeed it was difficult to take my eyes off her. Laughing frequently, with twinkling eyes, she seemed both enormously interesting and interested at the same time. I wanted nothing more than to scoot my chair up to her table and l talk to her all afternoon. I wanted to follow her home. As I watched her I realized, that although obviously older than myself, I could not begin to pinpoint her exact age, nor was that even remotely of interest where this woman was concerned.

And, as I sat there sipping Darjeeling and studying her, I began to feel like myself again, realizing afresh that age is of no matter in the true world. Life was a gift, pure and simple; a sublime journey of learning, giving and love, and it was meant to be lived, full tilt, for as long we are blessed to be here. In short, I got over myself, and went on to enjoy quite a jolly holiday.

I have often wondered who that lady was and where she might be now. She gave me quite a marvelous birthday present that day.
I can still hear her laughter.