Months later I saw the play. I enjoyed it, but couldn’t tell whether any of my submissions had actually made it to the performance. Now, four years later, I find them on my computer. Here’s what they asked, along with my responses written in 2007:
1. TELL US ABOUT YOUR HAIR: My hair is 75 years old. No, that isn’t accurate. It’s really about 73. For the first two years I didn’t have any hair. My mother bought a cloth-covered elastic band sporting a large plaid bow. This presumably prevented strangers from saying, “Cute little fella!”
One memorable day when I was about 16 years old, I had good hair. I mean really good – shiny, gently curling. I looked just like the Breck girl in my “Seventeen Magazine” ads.
The reason I remember that day so clearly is that it had never happened before, and it has never happened again. Ever.
My hair was too fine. Too curly. Not curly enough. Maybe needed color, maybe didn’t. It drooped when it was humid, drooped when it was not. Sleeping on curlers was uncomfortable. Drying it with curlers in place took more than an hour, using a contraption that had a plastic shower-cap-like hood with an extremely short hose connected to a blower. Tethered to it, I was pretty much immobilized. The result was never the sleek style that I aspired to.
Over the years I have spent about 50,000 hours and 20,000 dollars on my hair. And the ungrateful stuff still refuses to co-operate.
You know what’s really sad? On that day that I had perfect hair, it only lasted for about an hour. Then the wind kicked up, and that was the end of that.
2a. WHAT WILL YOUR LEGACY BE? Legacy. What a word! To think of the trail of mistakes and misadventures that I might be leaving behind is really quite scary..
Once a priest told my husband that the only sins were sins of intention. That’s a comforting thought. I don’t think I ever intentionally hurt anyone. Well, there was that one time in first grade . . .
2b. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE YOUR LEGACY TO BE? I’d like to be remembered as someone who knew how to celebrate being alive. Once my daughter, in college at the time, sent me a beautiful card. On the front she wrote, “Mom, Thanks for not sweating the small stuff.” And inside she said, “Thanks for not sweating the big stuff, either.”
That’s enough legacy for me.
3. HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU HAVE VALUE? I think I got that from my parents. When I was young I dried the glasses and silverware while my mother washed all the dishes. We let the crockery and pots dry by themselves. Often Mom and I sang duets, “There’s a Long, Long Trail A-Windin’,” or, “Tell Me Why the Stars Do Shine,” and more. It was beautiful. Maybe not. Didn’t matter.
Mom and I worked on the laundry, pegging out clothes on warm summer days. Dad “needed” me to help with tasks such as minor repairs around the house and yard. My job was to select and pass to him the proper tools. Dad let me know that I was needed, which I probably wasn’t.
4. DESCRIBE THE AVERAGE SCHEDULE OF YOUR DAY. I am retired and do as I please when I please. I volunteer, read trash, write trash (that I hope isn’t), and concentrate on savoring every bit of the time I have left. The days fly by, but never without my noticing what’s good about them. And there’s a lot of good. Finding it helps balance all the bad that tirelessly tries to claim our attention.
5. WHEN I WAS A LITTLE GIRL, I WANTED TO . . . Grow up, get married and have babies. Hey, it was the 1940s. The choices of career for girls (“In case you don’t get married”) were teacher or nurse. That would serve as fulfillment.
I did it, too. I got married, had babies and became a teacher. It wasn’t bad at all. I doubt that I was nuclear scientist material, anyway.
It’s a different world now, for girls. And I think that is a very good thing.
6. IF I HAD AN EXTRA HOUR, I WOULD . . . Treasure it. I do have extra hours these days, as an old person, and I do treasure them, all of them. If things seem to be getting slow, I hoist myself up and do something productive. Nothing like it for keeping the blahs at bay. The term “productive” can mean anything from reading something beautiful to tossing out the wilted lettuce in the fridge. The end result is surprisingly similar for both activities.
7. I FEEL BEAUTIFUL WHEN . . . I smile at strangers and they smile back. I pick someone at random, in a store or on the street and play a game – noticing how they look before, during and after their smiles. I have never met anyone who did not look beautiful smiling.
8. I FEEL UGLY WHEN . . . I can’t get myself past being angry about something. Sometimes the anger is from years ago. Nothing very pretty about that. But it’s my choice, and ugly people get to choose to remain ugly. You just don’t want to look in the mirror at times like that.
Our mothers knew what they were talking about when they said, “Watch out, your face might freeze!”