[Panels & Rust; Somerville, MA 2015]
Yesterday I handed over my bike, Olivia, to my daughter. My sixty-fifth birthday gift to myself, Olivia cruised the busy streets of Somerville only a handful of times. Fo no matter how earnestly my younger friends assured me that Somerville had become a bike-friendly city, I never overcame my fears, my overpowering sense of vulnerability, to enjoy her.
So now my daughter will. Now my daughter can transport her daughter (in a helmut and super-safe bike seat) to daycare along the bike path half a block from her house on an olive bike as classy as her namesake.
Still . . . I’m reminded of a wonderful piece about aging —and about its challenges and uncertainties—written by my writing student, Irene Ficarra. Irene recounted how, every summer, her family had rented a little place near the ocean for a week and how, on the last day, room by room, her mother would carefully sweep out a week’s worth of sand and grit and family debris and then, room by room, shut the door, telling the children they could no longer play in the now-swept room. All these years later, I am still moved by what Irene, in her mid-seventies, wrote next: she likened those shut-off rooms to beloved activities, like ballroom dancing, no longer accessible to her. Aligning herself with the little girl who’d been resentful when her mother forbade her to enter those cleaned rooms, she wondered if some of those shut doors in her own life might have been shut off too soon.
I so understand Irene’s questioning—because so much about growing old is not instinctual. Like learning to ride a bike, once you’ve noticed a pattern—Whoa! I get tired faster, now!—you will never not recognize this New Old You. It’s incorporated. Literally. Your body gets it. You cruise. (You accept, submit, surrender.)
But, oh, the tottering, the wobbling, the bruising, skinned-knee moments before you figure this stuff out!
[I will be joining Quakers from all over New England for our yearly gathering next week. So next week’s post will be August 7th.]