This past Fourth of July I spent my time in the company of those much younger and much older than myself. For Days 1 and 2 of my mini-holiday, I slept in a twin bed (decorated with a Curious George motif) with my nieces (ages 3 and 5) watching old movies like The Secret of Nim, Beverly Hills Chihuahua Two, and Hansel and Gretel. I left my vanity at the doorstep and swam in my granny suit (nice people would call it “retro) at the hotel pool as much as I could stand. My nieces and I walked to Johnny Mercer Pier and counted the jelly fish we could see hanging out in the ocean. We bought souvenir rings (mine is green and shaped like a shell) and gummy candies. We rode the elevator as much as possible because apparently, elevators are really cool when you are three years old. I did not Facebook and I did not e-mail. I ate mainly ice cream and pizza.
For the second half of my sojourn, I slept in my 89-year-old friend, Dorothy’s, guest bedroom/office which is a hodge-podge of her interesting life: Dance posters have been taped to the wall for twenty years. A globe sits stoically on top of an old filing cabinet. Books and books and maps and mobiles, and a computer that no longer works peer out from their shelves like gargoyles of Dorothy’s once-academic life. I sat with Dorothy in her cozy, beachy house and swung with her on her swing on her amazing porch while she repeated stories and I repeated responses. I watched nothing except the marsh changing with the night sky. I did not Facebook. I did not e-mail. I ate a Sunset Special at the Bridge Tender consisting of horseradish encrusted tuna with a soy glaze accompanied with sticky rice and sautéed spinach.
And, so, besides the fact that I felt extremely comfortable hanging out at both ends of the age spectrum , what else did I learn?
That little kids and old people (and let’s face it, it’s all relative) have a lot to offer those of us “stuck in the middle”.
That walking to a pier in tourist traffic with children is just about as stressful as getting your friend’s walker in and out of the car, but both journeys are worth the effort.
That a three-year old can show you how to appreciate the cacophonous and sensory pleasure of watching a movie while in a swimming pool while enjoying fireworks while eating popcorn (How cool is that?)
That an 89-year-old can share with you the meditative and sensory pleasure of swinging in the marsh breeze on a summer night with only the creaking of the swing and the croaking of the frogs in the background.
That to a three-year old a shady, biker dude can seem like a really cool modern-day pirate.
That to an 89-year-old watching TV is really an act for the desperate.
That in general, no matter how old you are, dogs are awesome. (Hayden and Riley met sled dogs (Siberian Huskies) near the pier. One was named Storm. Dorothy’s friend Nia, who lives downstairs at the beach house, has an amazingly gorgeous rescue dog that effortlessly keeps Dorothy company).
That it all goes by way too fast.
That no one ever wants the good times to end.
This last point was driven home to me by Riley, who, upon realizing that she had to leave, insisted that her mother had told her that they would “keep going”, which perplexed us all, but somehow indicated that Riley thought this first stop was just the beginning of a longer journey.
And this last point was also driven home to me by Dorothy who said to me, in all earnestness, “Having you here is just like a dream,” which simultaneously broke my heart and filled me with joy.
And finally, it is very writerly and clichéd of me to mention here that these seemingly surface comments do have a deeper meaning… (Do I need to point it out? Really? All right, dear readers. Twist my arm.)
DEEPER MEANING OF SEEMINGLY SURFACE OBSERVATIONS:
We will all (hopefully) keep going.
Our journey is much longer and
being with old friends and those we love can feel just like a dream if it doesn’t happen enough
…which is why I am vowing to go see Dorothy again as soon as possible and to schedule my “special” days with my nieces.
which is why I will make an effort to hopefully see you again, my dear reader-friends (you know who you are)
when I go to see Dorothy again, I think I will save up some bucks so that we can both go enjoy a salt scrub at the local spa and sit on her porch and swing into the night with the crickets. And when my nieces spend the night they can pick out what we eat and what we watch and maybe if we are lucky we will run into some cool pirates or find a treasure or feel the realization of being together which is, after all, treasure enough.