The Gift That Keeps Giving

My oldest daughter Bonnie, gifted me a Storyworth book in the spring of 2021, which is a series of questions picked out by my grown kids that is turned into a book after a year’s worth of weekly questions. This book will be given to myself, and my four kids, and it is a wonderful, thoughtful, gift.

Little did I know how much of my past this exercise would dredge up – both good and bad. And little did she know it would pull out some interesting conversations between us all. But it’s also been a very cool journey…a way of reminding me how far I’ve come, and maybe bringing to mind issues that even now need to be addressed. It’s crazy though, that since I’m a writer, I can’t just jot an answer down and let it go. My daughter asked recently about how many I’d completed, and I had to admit I hadn’t done it every week as the questions came, I kind of picked the ones I thought would be more interesting and worked on those, but also…I have to edit and ponder these answers. Then find pictures to go along with them. Perhaps go back and edit again. It takes me a while, for sure!

My daughter rolled her eyes and laughed. But as I think about this, and that maybe I should be more quick about it, I realize that for many of these questions there IS no short response. These are major life events we’re talking about that happened maybe thirty or forty years ago, and they aren’t simple to remember, or to unpack now. Once this book is published, it’s out for perpetuity, right? In the hands of my kids and passed down for generations. It is definitely a daunting prospect and I don’t want to be cavalier about it, and I DO want to be truthful, which has caused a few raised eyebrows and objections from my kids.

And there it is. Now I have to think about the weighty subject of ‘how much of the truth is really necessary to share’ and ‘where IS the truth and does it really matter?’ and all that. Big sigh. Nope I can’t just jot down a memory and let it go, because all of it had and still has meaning and heft and motivations and consequences. I must turn it over, examine it, and mold it into some kind of life lesson.

Much to my kids’ everlasting despair.

I have to admit, I find the whole process very entertaining.

Summer Nights

I remember when a summer night was an excuse to get out of the house, find the nearest outdoor bar with ambiance (or not), drink Long Island Tea or Screwdrivers or Scotch & Soda with a twist…or whatever. It was party, party, all the time! And somehow, the next morning, I made it to work, and did a fairly good job managing the hangover.

Now I look back, scratching my head. How on earth did I do that?

I was in my twenties. That’s how.

In my thirties, I started having babies. And divorces. My thirties were a blur of joy and crisis, so I can’t even remember much of them. Summer nights meant getting the kids to bed, the bills paid, the house clean, and still having energy left over to read before bed. This was my recipe for a great summer night in my thirties!

My beautiful kids circa 2003

In my forties, I began to gain a semblance of sanity. And my kids became teen-agers. At this point, I began to drink wine, exclusively. No more cute, little, designer drinks that looked good but made me throw up. Wine, I could control. Summer nights amounted to a few lake weekends with girlfriends, and marathon talks with teen-agers, trying to instill common sense into all those hormones. Ha! Ha! What a futile task. But I did my best, and a great summer night was a relaxed discussion on the deck with one or two of my teen-agers.

In my fifties, I had the best time ever. My kids were grown and gone or going; I discovered online dating, I had a great job, I’d learned to recognize and avoid toxic relationships. My summer nights were spent on my backyard deck, drinking good wine (by this time I’d become somewhat fluent), and having marathon conversations with other single moms about kids, men, and, well…mostly, men. How to tell the right ones from the wrong ones, which sounds simple, but isn’t.

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Woodstock Generation on Cutting Edge

Anti-aging is the name of the game for young-at-heart boomer gals like myself, that feel as we look in the mirror, a wee bit of cosmetic surgery would catapult us beautifully into our autumn years.

Key words that set my pulse racing are erase, disappear, soften, lift, tighten, smooth, restore, minimize, sculpt, refresh and that perennial favorite: turn back the clock

Can you believe the creams, pills, exercise machines, make-up innovations, enhancement tips, Web sites and countless ads devoted to helping women believe the lie that youth can be bought? I am horrified — simply horrified — as I devour multiple anti-aging articles along these lines.

My mother — a vibrant, fun, energetic 70-something — had a facelift some years ago, and I was personally involved in the recuperation process.

It was not fun to watch.

In fact, it was downright off-putting. A few months later, my best girlfriend had an eye-lift, and that was not pretty, either. However, both look incredibly youthful and rested now.

As my eyelids and naso-labial folds continue to dissolve into a mish-mash of thinning flesh, I tend to minimize the recovery struggles after cosmetic procedures and focus on the end results.

After all, when I had babies, and held them in my arms immediately afterwards, I forgot all about the pain. (Who am I kidding? Actually I never forgot the pain, and I kept having babies anyway.)

I am thinking that cosmetic surgery would fall roughly into the same category. After the birthing process, the pain seemed a small price to pay for the miracle of new life. I figure a decent mini-facelift is good for at least 10 years’ worth of new life at the opposite end of the spectrum.

At the same time, I am trying to distance myself from the still, small voice that whispers to me about appearance being transitory and inner beauty being more important and the perils of vanity.

I plug my ears and shout “la-la-la-la-la-laaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa” to drown out this irritating, inner voice. Doesn’t work very well, but it shuts it up for a few minutes.

Like it or not, appearance matters.

I can rationalize all I want about beauty being only skin-deep, and I know by heart the Biblical references to internal beauty, but the fact remains that the pretty women (Esther, Rebekah and Sarah to name a few from Bible days) are the ones that rocked.

All to say, I think it is a worthy goal to do the best with what I have and nip and tuck and restore if at all possible. At this point, I cannot even remember what color my hair is, and thank God every day for the miracle of highlighting.

I find it a delicate balance to walk the line between outright vanity and woman-aging-well.

We Woodstock-generation boomers are living longer, healthier lives, and most marketing studies point to a likely possibility of reaching age 90. On one hand I want to be proud of my well-earned wrinkles and graying mane; on the other, I want to rip them off my head. This is where the surgery part comes in.

I figure to fully rationalize a nip and tuck, I should return to the workforce full time. In order to do that, I must look my best, and having my eyes done and a mini-lift would fall under the heading of investing in a productive future.

This makes perfect sense to me. I think we will be able to deduct this on our taxes as a marketing expense.

I am getting excited just thinking about it.

First, though, I need to figure out how to stop that nagging voice in my head about inner beauty being enough.


This article first appeared in “The Lighter Side,” Capital Journal, Pierre, SD, March, 2010.