To all of you women over 55…

7/11/2014

Yesterday was indeed a day full of messages; one very poignant from my mother, which involved a woman waking down the street in front of me who had a tattoo on her back that intrigued me. Unable to distinguish if the tattoo was of a lotus flower, I simply stopped her to ask what it was. She informed me that it was the poppy flower, with a small fairy emerging from inside it. Immediately my mind identified the little waif, but afraid that this woman’s youth had not ever engaged such… I asked its significance. She replied the image was from the wonderfully enchanting book, The Velveteen Rabbit. My heart skipped a beat! When I asked what her connection to the storybook was – she said it had been a favorite of hers as a child- that her mother had read it to her every night of her youth and then when her mother became very ill a few years ago…she had read it to her mother everyday until she died. In memory, she got the tattoo. She said the tattoo was a constant reminder of the book, her “real” relationship with her mother in the final days and the adage of the wise old skin horse which explained to the young rabbit what it is to ‘become real’.

The wise old skin horse tried to explain to the broken-hearted little bunny that had been pushed aside for a newer toy with wind up parts, that moving parts and bright shiny metal was not all it was cracked up to be…that in time such toys would break and the little boy would become bored with them. He encouraged the little rabbit to be patient and to wait, knowing that in time the boy would return his attentions to the little  toy. With love and imagination, the boy would forget that the velveteen rabbit had no real hind legs and they would play and hop together in the garden and then after the sun would set…they would hold each other tight and he could snuggle down under the covers and keep the boy warm at night. The little rabbit so wanted to become ‘real’ for the boy and asked the old skin horse how such a  nursery magic could be his.

The wise old skin horse looked down upon the tiny toy and smiled…

“When a child has loved you for a very, very long time…you become real. But by that time, most of your fur has been rubbed off, your arms and legs don’t work so well and some of your body parts might be missing… but it will never matter, because to him you are real.”

The little rabbit wished that the nursery magic would happen to him, but hated that it came with such a price.

Becoming real involves getting older, losing one’s hair or fur…having joints that squeak or refuse to work at all… it comes with saggy bottoms, misshapen arms and legs, along with  a dimming of the brightness in our eyes. Becoming real takes a long, long time.

The young woman told me watching her mother go through an illness and being at her side through it all had made her appreciate the “art” of becoming real and she wished to honor that. I thought of my mother and her bravery and kindness in the end- she too had become real. But then she had always been real to me, even in her youth and my naivete.

I caught my reflection in a storefront window and paused before speaking further. My reflection said it all… I too was becoming real.  I smiled at the wise old skin horse inside myself- heard my mother’s gentle voice and decided to be kinder to the woman I had become. A small laugh built inside and then suddenly I blurted out to the woman, that being post menopausal, I completely understood what it meant to become real. Each morning I stand before a mirror, put on my glasses so I can see. Once on, I more clearly notice the multiplying crows feet gathering in the corners of my eyes– which of course I claim are from  laughing a lot in my life. Then as I looked downward at the rest of me, I could only sigh and wonder what the Hell time had done to my once youthful body!

“Here’s to becoming real!” I said and we shared an impromptu hug. In that moment I realized that my mother had reached out through her and her mother  had reached out through me… all because of  my insatiable curiosity about this woman’s tattoo.

The meeting was more delightful and significant than she could have possibly known! Why?  Because the book had been my childhood favorite too and my mother and I had shared a special bond over it all through her remaining life. In fact, my first Christmas home after my parents had moved to New Orleans, and I was left behind in Chicago at the age of 18…I awoke to a special present under the tree. It was a newer book of the Velveteen Rabbit, accompanied by an actual stuffed velveteen rabbit tucked inside  a huge red stocking, filled with a clockwork mouse, an orange or two and other trinkets- just like it was presented in the storybook! It was the best present ever!

Oh what a grand Christmas that was and true to my nature…I still have that very rabbit 38 years later! Just as my mother had grown older and become real, I sense now that I too am beginning that bittersweet journey to real. The meet-cute on the street in the middle of the day in Athens, Georgia had been remarkable and filled with such sentimentality, that I immediately made a call to two of my sisters to share my joy. It  was the most authentic message of love and remembrance from my mother I had received in a long time.

So my dear female readers…let us not be so hard on ourselves when life sneaks up behind us to share a few more memories, along with the few extra pounds that come with them. Let us rather rejoice when our bottoms sag just a bit and accept with kindness and grace our fates when our hair color defies our inner youth; for we too are becoming real and that only happens when we have lived and loved a very long, long time.

I am 56 years old…I am losing some of my fur, my bottom sags just a bit here and there are a few of my body parts that don’t all work the way they used to, but by God ladies…my eyes are just as bright as they have ever been, my mind even more sharp, because I am wiser! My curiosity is just as fired up as it has ever been and I, my dear readers- have just begun to become real!

So to all the woman I know who have crossed over 55…with grace and aplomb, I applaud you for becoming real!

 

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