Coffee in My Garden – What Has Happened to Me?

Joyful Day sans Makeup

Joyful Day sans Makeup

I have to write this fast – have to take Our Marine to the train station shortly for part two of his Welcome Home Tour.

In looking at my To Do list – I haven’t done nearly as much as I had planned to do. I don’t know if it’s that we still haven’t gotten over the stress of last year (MIL’s final illness, keeping up two houses, long nights in ICU or the ER or both), Florida in summer when it’s just too hot to do much of anything, the fact that I’m getting older and slowing down a bit or perhaps my priorities have changed.

Once upon a time I would never have let a photo like this of myself be taken much less shown. I might not be showing it now but Daughter posted it on Facebook along with others of our outing last week so what the heck. She loved them.

Once upon a time I was much thinner, obsessed about everything I ate, enjoyed none of it, and beat myself up over every morsel. I worked out relentlessly, wore only the best of everything and the story of me refusing to go to the hospital for the birth of our daughter until my hair and makeup were perfect – despite my water breaking and her birth being imminent – is legend in our family.

Somewhere along the line I decided life is way too short for all that nonsense, ice cream and chocolate are good for the soul, and there really are more important things in life, like being there for people who need me.

Ironically as I’ve been deciding that, the world has been busy deciding otherwise. Oh well.

Do I wish I still had that tiny ballerina-perfect figure? Sometimes. I have started working out again, my old ballet-based workout, and by happy accident (new clothes for a photo shoot) discovered I am a size smaller so wahoo! Am I obsessing over it? No. I have a loose goal for the week and I’ve been sticking to it. Once the weather is more forgiving (by that I mean anything less than 95) the pups and I will walk more. For now short beach trips and the shady dog park suffice. Perhaps a pup walk once I finish this – it’s only 80-something today.

Once upon a time our house could have been used for a movie set or magazine layout at a moment’s notice. It’s not that way right now. We have now inherited at least three generations’ worth of stuff since Fran died and after the initial zoom-through during which we sent a great deal of stuff to friends, family, had a huge garage sale and blessed most of the charities in town, we’re down to stuff with meaning and it’s taking a while to go through.

Once upon a time I could organize an entire house in a week or so. I can still do someone else’s that fast. Ours is not so easy now. The old Alabama house was sold this week, the last of the things to keep were brought down here and a very long chapter in our family has now been closed. There are things to be appraised, things to be sent to those who need them, things to be given to family members, and on and on. Despite my efficient nature, I have discovered some things can’t be done in an hour or even a day. Logic says “It’s a box – fifteen to thirty minutes tops.” The soul says “Take your time.” I find myself reliving the day that photo was taken – that trip to the zoo, ice skating for the first time, family reunions. Tears shed over loved ones we will never see again in this world. Photos as an impatient teenager I rolled my eyes over enduring at family reunions while some adult told me to “Stop being a pain and smile” – and grateful now that I did. Discovering a grandmother was also an artist – we never knew that until we found two paintings of hers in a closet that should have been on the wall. Instead of packing away a quilt pieced by mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers all gone now, I grab a cup of coffee and snuggle under it instead, remembering.

My view now is less one of everything being perfect and me being efficient, and more about taking joy in each moment while it lasts.

My mother was a beautiful woman, but it isn’t her beauty I remember most. It’s her singing around a campfire with us on a Girl Scout outing. It’s picking dewberries together in a field on a warm spring day, followed by her teaching me how to make the best cobbler in the world. It’s us sitting at the end of the pier at sunset, not saying a word, just enjoying being together as we watched the shrimp boats come in on Mobile Bay.

I am not the tiny ballerina of old. This picture proves it. I weigh too much, I have no makeup on, my hair after several hours of romping in the Florida heat, wind, and sun is an absolute mess and it didn’t even occur to me to fix it before Daughter snapped that picture. Some traces of Perfectionist Me can still be spotted if one looks closely – I am still wearing the earrings that perfectly accessorized the bathing suit. But it was a beautiful Florida day, the weather was perfect, the company (my Daughter) was perfect, I am holding The Princess, one of my favorite dogs of all time and she enjoyed it, too.

When I look at this picture a week later, I am reminded of this day and I feel again the joy of being alive with those I love and cherishing every moment.

And when I look through those photo albums, I realize my favorite pictures are not always the studio shots but the picture of Mom with no makeup on a sailboat being blown to death and loving every minute and Fran with both arms full of parrots at parrot jungle. Photos of life being lived and loved.

Probably not doing my acting career any favors, but oh well…attention directors – if you want someone to play a real woman, here she is!

Me as Gladys in Pajama Game - Hernando's Hideaway

Me as Gladys in Pajama Game – Hernando’s Hideaway