I’ve said over and over again to whoever paid attention that the key to appreciating life lies in your own attitude. After hearing a line affirming that fact in the movie reviewed in my previous post, I can’t think of anything offhand that doesn’t depend on what we choose to bring to the experience. I thought about it as I was driving home yesterday from a meeting of my new writing club. One of the members, Polly, is a petite, silver-haired senior in her eighties. She’s one of those charismatic people I think of as born story tellers. Though she doesn’t call undue attention to herself in a crowd, as you get to know her you realize she’s not sleep walking through life, she’s always living an adventure. I always say to her after a long absence, what new adventures do you have to share with me, Polly, and she always has at least one. It may be how she decided to get out the step ladder and fix that malfunctioning security alarm system herself. After struggling with screwdrivers and socket wrenches and the sort, she soon felt frustrated enough to call the people who designed the system and ask them to walk her through it–what color wire goes here, etc.–so she could fix it herself rather than calling on her busy adult son. Then there were the trips she’s taken with her grandchildren–two so far, involving three adult grandchildren–and the beautiful stories of their serendipitous adventures together. I’ve no doubt traveling as adults with their grandmother–with an age-span of 60+ years–has surely given them a much larger picture of graceful aging than society does in general. In fact, I began to realize early on that Polly sees the world much differently than I. Being a former dancer and teacher with a flair for drama, Polly’s world comes choreographed where mine comes with stories.
I love the occasional glimpse into the world as others see it, and I get that opportunity–seeing Polly’s choreographed world–regularly at our monthly writer’s meeting. Yesterday, when she shared two more adventures, I suggested she should be sharing with a wider audience than the four of us at the meeting, but she demurred suggesting a certain aversion to computers in general. So I begged, and she graciously agreed to be my guest blogger for today’s Wintersong. I hope my readers will be inspired through it to take a second look at ordinary people on an ordinary day. After all, wasn’t it Shakespeare who said All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.
When discussing a good way to get an idea for a story, one of our writing group members suggested that we go to a restaurant and sit close to others in order to listen to bits of conversation. When shopping at Costco the other day, I decided to have lunch. I forgot about sitting close to others and, as is my habit, sat as far away as possible from others. I could not hear any conversations–just the general cacophony of the crowd. In watching those around me, I began to be intrigued by an elderly couple who came into view.
When the gentleman started to sit down, his wife–with a sweeping gesture of her arm and index finger–pointed to another place, he raised himself and went to the spot she had designated. Right away we know she is “Mrs. Take Charge.” He then took something from his pocket–a Kleenex, a rag or a handkerchief, not sure which–and proceeded to clean his eating area with a rotating motion; first it was clockwise and then counterclockwise. She sat down across from him, but not for long. She popped up in jumping-jack fashion, turned away from him toward what I saw were the free napkins, and darted across the room. She returned with a wad of napkins. Standing in front of her plate, she began pressing the top of her meal with a handful. She pressed and released, pressed and released; it was similar to a plié and releve at a ballet barre. I think she was squeezing the grease from her meal while her husband continued to clean his area of the table. I watched their gestures–she, going down and up; he still going in a circular motion–as if I were watching a dance recital. That was just one table.
When glancing to the right there was another table, this one with a large family. Their gaggle of small children were like a pail of worms on fast forward. Under the bench and around the table, back and forth they’d go. Every once in awhile one would stop and cling to a parent. There was a constant and rapid circulation of little people. Here I am in this scene, watching Mrs. Take Charge and her obedient spouse, and the squirming children. Out of the blue comes a woman with big thighs and breasts laboriously pushing her heavy cart. She flopped down into a seat, exhausted from the effort of managing her cart and huge self. All I could think of was that out of this scene there was an idea for a new dance! To think, one eight-inch all-beef hot dog on a roll topped with sauerkraut with a 16 ounce drink–my lunch–and all it had cost me was $1.50! The “extra” was watching what strikes me now as the makings of a dance program. And the show was all free!