Short Skirt, No Jacket

On my last night alone before the house fills up again, it seems to be prom night. Or something like that. I only know this because on my late afternoon walk, I notice cars pulling up and parking everywhere near my house, which is an oddity. We live on a small cul-de-sac off of a dead end street street that has only recently made it onto google. So let’s just say that we don’t get many visitors, and those who do venture our way have puzzled expressions and wander off quickly.And suddenly tonight, someone’s having a party — cars literally everywhere — and I’m not invited. I’m slightly uncertain whether I’m sad or happy about that.

And then as I turn the corner and realize the size of the mounting car count, I see a young girl climb out from behind the driver’s seat. She has perfect blonde hair and a glittery dress, but it’s the length, or lack thereof, that tells me it must be homecoming, and that one of my neighbors is graciously hosting the pre-party so the girls aren’t left to their own devices. No jacket. The other three girls emerge a bit more slowly, carrying that little bubble of excitement/anxiety that changes your life.

I keep walking.

As I reach to the end of the street, I see another car, this one with a few boys tumbling out, trying to wrangle their fancy clothes onto their less adept bodies. They look way less confident than the glittery girl.

Homecoming, Sadie Hawkins, Prom Night — oh the memories, and none of them good. I missed my junior prom after my parents nixed the very nice guy I’d been dating. I made my senior prom, and it was … well let’s just say he was cute but psycho, and his allure was quickly axed. Then there was college in the seventies, and we were all way too cool for prom. But I’ve heard that some people like it.

Go forth. Grab the night. Be yourself.

23

Mosaic Portrait by Pamela GoodeHaving just finished a self portrait from a photograph taken when I was 23, I’m rather enamored. She’s hanging on the wall across from me and, flaws aside, I like her. I like who she was — timid, too quiet, gentle and reticent — and I like who she’s become — brash, passionate, level-hearted, and wild for life. I like looking at her and knowing that she’s okay now, and that I am too. I like considering the deepness of her eyes so young, and knowing that I made her, moment by moment, each of 21,020 days now, give or take a few leap years. I like looking at her as she is, unaware of the intervening decades, and as I am now, aware and more or less okay with them. And I wonder, if she had peeked out the window in 1978 and caught a glimpse of us at 57, what would she say to this older self?

Would she be surprised at the friends I still hold close? And those I’ve let go?

Would she be surprised that I still sew, that I still read Faulkner, Eliot, and Nabokov, that I still write, that I’m still slow to speak?

Would she wonder how I found the nerve to travel alone, to open a business, to finally crack in the face of inequities and speak out, make waves, lose friends?

How disappointed would she be over my first marriage? How angry that it took me so long to learn to speak? How devastated over the too-many-times that I kept my mouth shut?

How much in awe at knowing our children, so like her and yet so not?

How stunned to realize that they are both older now than she is?

Our mother died six years ago, and missing her has changed my view of aging — a bit. I used to surprise myself by seeing her in the mirror now and then, and finding her skin across my legs and arms. Sometimes I scan the road ahead of my car, and I know I’m looking through my mother’s eyes, seeing with her hazel irises and interpreting my view in that funny way she had. For so long, I didn’t like these intrusions of age, but now I welcome them as a little more time spent with the woman who gave me life and shared it with me longer than anyone I know.

And when I glance across the room to 23 now, I’ve got that motherly thing going on. I want to protect her, to encourage her, to give her a fear of not living, to make sure she wrings every drop of life out of her years. In a way, I’m re-mothering myself, and she’s re-childing me.

Here’s what I miss most about those early years: knowing what you love and believing you’ll never, ever let go of it, for any reason; the certainty that everything is possible; being an impetus for change rather than fearing it; sharing a comfortable relationship with time; believing you’ll always be beautiful.

So yeah, she’s staying on the wall right in front of me. I suggest you post an image of yourself on the wall too — it’s quite the kickstarter.