Enamored Lives

>> Thursday, September 9, 2010

Sunday was my grandmother's birthday celebration. We had, as I somewhat reproachfully called it, an old women's convention in my living room.  My jobs included pouring champagne, creating a non-lumpy and just thin-enough-without-being-papery crepe batter, generally being pleasant, and staying out of the way. Most of this was fine by me. I personally am not one for fretting endlessly over such details as what type of bread to buy. (Other details, sure, I'll fret endlessly about...) But my mother and grandmother were practically beside themselves, constantly changing the menu, trying to locate a "bar cart", which, in the entire history of our entertaining schemes having taken place in this house has never been required. I didn't think the luncheon was such a big deal, but all of a sudden they'd whipped out the fancy silverware, ironed the napkins (ironing napkins! it exists!) and are all acting as if our future depended on the success of the luncheon. I honestly feel as if I'm the only sane one left in this household.

Once all the women arrived, all wrapped in autumn-colored shalls, dangly earrings and, in some cases, heels that should have been left to the under 30 crowed, cooing over each other's respective clothing, hair color, weight loss and denial of the aging process, while I stood there aimlessly, smiling and nodding and agreeing wholeheartedly. I'd never met any of them before, and between the six women, I was told I resembled my grandmother (hispanic), my "Italian side" and my father (german).  I didn't want to deny these women their most favorite pastime of commenting endlessly on grandchildren's appearances, so I remained silent, even though, for the record, I don't think I look like any of my family.

Once they'd all calmed down to the point where they could at least drink champagne and talk at the same time we brought out lunch and they, again, began to interrogate me. Upon hearing that I was 19, all the women (after "Ahhhhh" -ing), thought aloud to themselves, "Dónde estaba yo?", translated: "Where was I?" 

Thus came the most interesting part of the day, hearing all their long lost love stories. To be sure, I am not one for a sappy story. I generally despise movies that are too cutesy or make me cry. But these stories, because they were so much more real (though most likely embellished over the 40 or so years since they occurred) that I was riveted- to use the term loosely.

It was a bit frightening to hear them all recounting their first marriages at 16, 17, 18, etc., whether done in spite of their parents, old boyfriends (these ladies got around, I hear) or because they were enamored (their words). As you may have guessed, these first marriages never lasted, and often second ones didn't either, but all the same, it was comforting to hear them recounting their younger years with (what I assumed was) some level of satisfaction and, if not pride, then at least contentment, good memories. Despite what my mother may insist regarding all my "terrible choices" and "irresponsibility", I'm not half as bad as these women, and their parents probably said the same. Granted, I don't plan on having such a dramatic, tangled, soap-opera-quality life, but isn't it good to know they don't regret it? Then again, who wants to admit such a substantial failure? But I think there is sometimes a place for a yearly or so serving of drama and scandal.

Moral of the story: Old women offer good stories, perspective, despite their otherwise seemingly unhinged tactics at the lunch table (i.e. upstaging each other with toasts, drinking copious amounts of champagne, and neglecting their vegetables).

--This post was written by guest writer Christie Hirtzel. Christie is an incoming sophomore and Anthropology major at Vassar College in NY. You can read more of her work on her personal blog at: misssincerely.blogspot.com

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