"She loved the lines around his mouth."
~ 5 Days in May, Blue Rodeo
There is so much more to come.
I sat for a while this week with my friend's 93 year old mother. She is tiny and frail and yet still so strong. She has outlived a husband and a son, and so many friends. She tells me the same tales (often several times during a visit) of what her life was like in Bangladesh, how she spent her time sewing at the convent for the nuns, and the jubilant gatherings that happened almost every evening at her home as family and neighbours came by to visit.
I watch her face as she speaks. It is the closest thing I have seen to perfection. Her lines, in the winter of her life, fly from her eyes upwards toward her temples, and then downward over the apples of her cheeks - the feathers of a phoenix waiting to be reborn. They are as exquisite in her laughter as they are when her eyes well up with tears as she speaks about her lost son. A face so full of life that it is etched into her divine coffee skin in fractals prettier than any computer could conjure.
One day, I wish to have phoenix feathers that tell tales of my life and loves and losses. For now, my little lines are just starting to deepen, showing more when I smile than when I cry. They will be seared into my skin a little more each year over the remaining summers of my life spent in gardens and wandering hillsides. They are often hidden behind my hair that I wear long and wild, bucking every comment of "you know, at your age..." Yes, yes. At my age...
At my age, the "grey" strands that are appearing are coming in pure white, and are camouflaged by the blond that they snake through. At my age I wander alone in the woods, go to theme parks even though they scare me, and would absolutely jump out of an airplane again. And again.
At my age, my oldest niece has moved out after living with me for two years, and now I find myself with no excuse to refuse the offers to set me up on a blind date with a friend of a friend of a friend. I find it odd - this idea that unless there is someone in your life, your home, your heart, to fuss over, that you should be lonely - at any age. I have told my friends that I have never been lonely. Not once. Not when I was engaged to a man that was never around, or throughout my single years, or while taking road trips by myself. Not even in my twenties when I thought that I loathed myself - I've never been afraid of my own company, and the host of unseen others that wander with me.
At my age, my caregiving is slowly transferring from my nieces to my parents. But mostly, this year at least, I've been taking care of myself. I've been delighting in movement (from ass-shaking dancing to long yogic stretches) and creating oil blends to bless my sun-weary skin. I've been gathering my friends more, around fires and wine glasses and dinner tables. We speak of all the things that happen to us "at our age" which is intriguing and eye-opening because I have friends ten years younger than me and friends a dozen years older, and how wonderful and strange to hear all their "at my age" stories.
Should I have the blessing of time, I suspect that over the years I will disrupt all sorts of people's expectations of what might be acceptable of a woman of my age. I haven't yet had turquoise hair. There are still a few settings I have in mind where I'd like to tumble all naked and unruly with someone. I intend to keep giggling at inappropriate moments. I have no plans on ever letting a season go by when I don't find some childish wonder in the world around me.
I will earn my phoenix feathers. I will tear apart the world's ideas of what might be appropriate at my age - whatever that age becomes. And perhaps one day, when I am 93 and my nieces sit and talk with me, and I tell all kinds of stories of the wildness of the early autumn of my life, they might look upon my face all tattooed with lines and find it perfection, and wonder what they might do to earn phoenix feathers of their own.