What Is It About Women and Their Feet?

pedicure, high heels, feet

“I refuse to go! No one touches my feet!”

That was my mom’s reaction when I stopped in front of a beautiful spa to give the female members in my East Coast family a treat. I had just spent seven hours in the car with my daughter and granddaughter to reach Delaware for some “Nanny” time.

My mom is the most put-together 91-year-old you’ll ever meet. She wears light blue and pink pastel sweaters to show off her blue eyes and snow white hair. She shows off her lithe figure in Gap Kids jeans. Her earrings always match her necklace, which matches the color sweater she’s selected for the day.

She wears Converse sneakers to look cool – and to hide her feet.

What is it about us women and our feet? Continue reading

You Fill Up My Senses

dawn, sunshineI drove seven hours last weekend with John Denver.

Well, kind of.

At 4 a.m. on Saturday, my daughter, 7-year-old granddaughter,  and I hit the turnpike to drive from Boston to Delaware to visit my ailing mom.

Before we left the driveway, the 7-year-old was back asleep and stayed that way for almost three hours.

As I drove in the blackness of too-early morn, my daughter and I conversed quietly in the front seat. The dark shapes of homes and trees – then the lit-up highway signs and speeding cars and trucks – passed by like shadowy strangers.

We reminisced about her Nanny – my mom – whose strong feisty personality is dimming. We laughed softly as we shared a story or two of Nanny’s powerful presence in our lives, and then my daughter slowly, slowly, drifted off to her own dreams.

I was alone, then, in the quiet swiftly moving car, and I reached out for some music, something to fill the space of memories and sadness.John Denver, John Denver Tribute Album Continue reading

Turning Into An Age

age, mothers, daughters, birthdays

Blowing away age myths.

My mom just turned ______.

Well, I’m not going to fill in the blank. Let’s just say she turned yesterday.

When we celebrate a birthday, why do we exclaim that we’ve “turned”? Like, “Joe just turned 60 and he’s so grumpy.” Or Jilly turned 13 last week and is now a true teenager.”What happens to us, when we “turn” into a new age? Do the wrinkles around our eyes suddenly crease deeper? Do our muscles turn stiffer, or weaker, on our birth date?

Or is it more ethereal than that. Do we suddenly turn into a “new” person, a different person,because the calendar says we’re now one year older?

All I know is that if I filled in the blank in the first sentence of this post , my mom would never talk to me again. Or worse, she’d talk to me, but believe me, her words would not be loving or kind.

And I understand that  –  now.

age, age discrimination, birthdays, mothers, daughters

Cute as a button, at any age.

When I was a child, I never knew my mom’s age. She never revealed it to my brother and me. Of course, at 5, or 10, or even 15, who cares how old our parents are? They’re ancient and we’ll never be that old.

But I do remember the time, when I was in my 20s, when my mom turned a certain number, let’s guess 53, and she told everyone at the birthday party that she’d just “turned” 43. I did the math, and wondered if she really gave birth to me when she was only a teenager. Because all along, I’d been told she didn’t have her first child until she was almost 30.

I approached my dad with the sensitive subject. He kind of smiled nervously, shrugged his shoulders, and suggested I ask my mom. From the nervous tic in his shoulders, I figured that was a bad idea.

For years after, I noticed that my mom gave a different number to her age anytime my bro or I asked her. One month she was 51, another time 48, three months later, maybe 52. And we were in our late 30s by then!

By the time I was 40 and lying about my age as competently as my mom, I snuck up to my dad and begged  him to tell me how old mom was. He shook his head at me in disappointment.  As sagely as the good witch telling Dorothy that all along, all she had to do was click her red heels to go home, my father said, “All you’ve had to do is check out her driver’s license.” After a pause he added, “but don’t ever tell her I gave you that advice!”

birthday, birthday party, greatgrandchildren, parents, mother/daughter

Sharing her wish with great-grandson, not her age.

So, I’m ashamed to admit right here, to my readers across the world, that I did just that. Me, a parent, an upstanding citizen with no arrest record (and just one speeding ticket…or two), flew across the country to supposedly “visit” my mother. Then I sent her off for an errand, and like a thief lusting for a hidden diamond ring, I peeked into her purse and found her driver’s license.

There it was – in black and white and I felt sorry all over.

mother, grandmother, age, birthday

Teaching her grandson that attitude is everything.

What did it matter how old she was? Age is only a number. Attitude is everything. She looks at least 20 years younger than her “licensed” age, she acts 30 years younger (I’ve been known to whisper to friends who ask: “my mom is 80 going on 18”). She’s beautiful and trim, laughs a lot, surrounds herself with delightful friends, yells at me if I try to carry her suitcase when she visits (“I’m perfectly capable, thank you!”), and reads voraciously.Honestly, I can’t keep up with my mom – her energy is friskier than a puppy’s, yet her wisdom hits the mark whenever I need a mother’s words to get me through life’s kinks.

 “People have perceptions of what 60 is supposed to be, and 70, and 80 and beyond. I don’t want to be categorized,” she insists.

Mom, I salute you.

And I’m so glad you didn’t “turn” into anything other than your most wonderful self on this birthday.

mother and daughter, birthday, age

Mother and Daughter – Ageless

Traveling to the Ocean

I am here again, traveling along the same flat road, watching the tall green maples and oaks turn to scrubby, smaller bush and pine. What is it about my primordial need to return to the ocean – the Atlantic Ocean – every summer?

As I breathe in the hot humid New Jersey air, a mixture of dirt, gas, grass, asphalt and salt water, I wonder if it’s just a childhood memory that needs to be rewritten and retold yearly.  After all, as a child I crossed the southern hemisphere of New Jersey, traveling from the little town of Pitman to Ocean City at least four or five times a summer.  At 1½ hours one-way, that was 15 hours round trip each summer, for 18 years: 270 hours of my childhood spent traveling to and from the Atlantic Ocean.

But it is more than that.  It is . . .

“Why is he traveling so closely behind you?  How fast are you going?” my mother interrupts my slow, careful thoughts.

“I’m going 70 miles per hour,” I answer defensively.  Actually, the speedometer reads 69, but I know that will not satisfy her.  On this particular trip, we are traveling alone, my 80-something mother and me, to Ocean City on a gorgeous sparkling 93º Saturday morning.  We’re on our way to meet 12 other family members for our annual week-long sojourn.

“That’s too slow,” she responds.  “The speed limit is 65. I go at least 75.”

I allow my eyes to leave the road to give my mom a small smile.  She is younger than me in so many ways.  Always has been, and I’ve always been older than she.

“You convinced me to let you drive my car,” she continues, “so don’t give me that look that says I can’t be a ‘front seat driver.’ ”

I just smile a little wider.  We’re enjoying ourselves in her little white convertible. The top is down; the wind is in our hair.  I decide to bite my tongue and not tell her I am driving particularly because she insists on driving 80 miles per hour when the speed limit is 65.

I look in the rear view mirror. A big black SUV is barely a foot away from my bumper.  I’m in the fast lane and can’t move over to the right lane because of a string of slower cars.

“Back off,” I mumble.  I tap my brake lightly, but he doesn’t decelerate.

“Go faster,” my dear mother says.  Her short white hair is whipped against her head like a cap.  Her tanned legs are crossed comfortably in front of her, showing off light blue short shorts. Her white tank top accentuates toned arms.

“Mom, I can’t go faster, then I’d be right on the bumper of the person in front of me.  Besides, I don’t want to go faster.”  Why do I feel like the prim and proper old aunt?

She sighs and fidgets for a few more minutes.  Finally, I find an opening in the right hand lane, turn on the blinker, and begin to move over.

“Give ‘em the finger,” she demands.

 “What? Mom!” I respond in shock.

 “Come on, give ‘em the finger,” my pretty, demure mother, great-grandmother of four, insists.

 “No, I won’t.” I’m afraid she is going to make me.  At my age, I don’t need to give in like I did at 6, or 16, or even 26.  I smooth into the right lane and begin to relax until I see my mother push toward me and lean over my lap. She holds her face up high, as high as her five foot two inch frame allows, and she yells to the driver of the SUV passing us, “J   E   R  K,” in a long, loud, reverberating scream.  I stare at this woman and then look at the face of the driver as he stares, too, mouth open.  He looks hurt, that this small, cute, but older, woman is chastising him so harshly. As he lifts his arms and hands in supplication, I begin to laugh, first gently so I make no sound, and only my stomach rises quickly in and out; then I release myself and laugh until it hurts.

“Why didn’t you give him the finger?” she asks when I finally stop.

 “Mom, you are too much,” I answer.

 Her expression is surprised, like ‘what did I do?’

 I think of the times our differences used to bother me: she was always short, cute, and feminine; I felt too tall, awkward, big.  She was the social one; I was the loner.  She was assertive; I stood in the background, watching.

 “Love you mom,” I say just as a big wheeler passes us noisily. I’m not sure she hears me, but she has a small, secretive smile on her elfin face.