How Momma G Gets Ready for Vacation

A few years ago, my brother Eric and his wife Colleen invited me to go on vacation with them.  I assured them that I would love such a venture, and maybe someday I would join them.

“Maybe someday.”  It is one of my most often used phrases.  Maybe someday I will buy the car of my dreams, with heated seats to warm my stiff back during  the chilly New Hampshire winters.  Maybe someday I will spring for real percale sheets that lie cool and soft against my skin at night.  Maybe someday I will have a real manicure and pedicure.  Maybe someday I will go away for a vacation and see places that I have only read about or watched on Discovery Channel.

The problem with “maybe someday” is that someday rarely comes.  There is always something more important that comes up- a dental procedure, a car repair, someone who needs my attention.  I don’t really mind, because life is full of unplanned realities and pipe dreams are just that- dreams that go up in smoke.

But last winter, after several discussions and lots of budget balancing, I decided to join Eric and Colleen on a cruise through Alaska’s Inside Passage.  There is a new decade looming in front of my next birthday.  I’m not getting any younger.  The time is now. For months after I agreed to go, I thought of all the reasons why I should not, but I was committed and once the reservations were made, there was no backing out.  Strangely, the reasons for not alaskagoing began to fade, and my feelings of excitement began to grow.  I spoke to other people who had gone on Alaskan cruises.  Their enthusiasm was unfettered and contagious.  I began to dream of the whale watch and salmon bake we chose as an excursion.  I nestled into the idea of spending seven nights at sea with the choice of what to eat as my biggest decision.

My plans began to unfold.  I booked a hair appointment the Saturday before our departure, so I’d be sure the silver streaks that are beginning to take over my head would be well hidden.  I planned to splurge on a manicure so my cuticles would be well-trimmed and my nails smooth and even.  I would spend the long Memorial Day weekend leisurely packing and preparing, spend one last day at work on Tuesday, and depart on Wednesday.

But we all know about the best laid plans of mice and men.  I woke early Saturday morning, unable to sleep because my sinuses were throbbing and my head aching.  I swallowed a few ibuprofen and sipped coffee, grateful that I had plenty of time before my 9AM hair appointment.  After a shower and breakfast, it was still only a little after 8 so I decided to clean my wallet.  Coming across the appointment card at my hair salon, I glanced at the time and gasped.  It read “8AM.”

A quick call to my stylist ensued, and she agreed to fit me in at 9:30.  By the time I left the salon, my face and head were pounding like a bass drum, so I called my doctor’s office and made an appointment.  I was less than a mile from home, when I noticed steam billowing from under the hood of my car, and by the time I reached my parking lot, it was clear there was a leak in my coolant system.

carMy mechanic was closed so I called a dealership.  “Yes,” they said, “We can look at  the car but not until Monday.”  I hung up the phone, seeing dollar signs drifting from my wallet into the air.

After seeing the doctor, I filled my prescription and settled on the couch and thought about the directions.  Take two hours after eating and one hour before eating.  Or is it two hours before eating and one hour after eating?  I swallowed a pill and hoping for the best, got up from the couch to retrieve something and tripped on the cord to my laptop, sprawling on the livingroom floor in front of my son.

“I’m fine,” I assured him as he helped me up, and urged him to go out as planned.  After the door shut, I rubbed my stiffening shoulder, hip and knee.  “No way am I going to be a baby about a little fall,” I thought to myself, and decided to clean the bathroom.

As I scrubbed my stomach began to rumble, protesting the assault the antibiotics had waged.  My face ached.  My muscles were sore. My stomach churned.  And yet, I was scouring the tub.  “Why am I doing this?”  I asked aloud.headache

“What if you get attacked by a grizzly bear and die in Alaska?  People will come to your funeral and then they will come back to your apartment to have food and conversation afterward, and they will see how dirty your bathroom is.”

Really.  I kid you not.  That was my thought process.  And that is when it dawned on me.  Vacation is supposed to be fun.  And relaxing.  They are for enjoyment.  Who cares if people can see your gray hair?  What matter is it that your nails do not look like a model’s?  And if you get eaten by a grizzly, people will not be looking for soap scum in the bathroom.

I put the sponge away and sat down on the couch.  I’ll figure out the car before it is time to drive to the airport.  I’ll pack tomorrow, after I’ve slept in.  Late. Like 7 o’clock.  When my stomach calms down, I’ll take some more ibuprofen and go to bed.  I’ll dream about whale watches and glaciers.  And come hell or high water, in a few days I’ll be on vacation. Because someday is now.

You’re How Old?

This past Monday was my birthday.  I have now lived 696 months. That is 3,027 weeks or 21,184 days old, which comes to 508,429 hours or 30,505,767 minutes or 1,830,346,077 seconds.  Those of you who love to do math have already figured out how many years I’ve lived.  Sorry, but I’m not going to make it easy for the rest of you.

So if I’m so old, how come I don’t feel old?  How come every time I look in the mirror I am surprised to see someone who looks like she should be my mother staring back at me?  It is true that I could have given birth to practically everyone who walks the red carpet, just like it is true that I remember when television was black and white and records were played on a  hi-fi, and the milk man left glass bottles of milk on the back steps.  But I still feel young.  Like somewhere around nineteen.

When I was nineteen I was in college.  I wore the university uniform of blue jeans, body stockings and Earth shoes.  My locks hung past my shoulders and I never wore makeup because I didn’t need it.  I was skinny- less than 120 pounds, even though I am over five feet, eight inches tall.  I could quote Shakespeare and Chaucer, eat pizza at midnight without getting heartburn, and sing notes as high as Joni Mitchell.

When I was nineteen, I sang with my friend Mary.  I would weave silver threads of harmony around her strong golden melodies and together we would entertain long-haired audiences who filled the local bars and coffee houses.   Our music was simple- acoustic and eclectic- and we would cover tunes by The Beatles, Donovan and Judy Collins.  We practiced in lobby of our dorm, our notes tripping down the steel stairwells, and echoing against the cement walls.  We sang for beers and tips and the thrill of hearing the crowd grow quiet when the guitar strummed the opening chords.  We sang because with a few notes, we could wear our hearts on our sleeves.  With a few notes, we could tell a story that would bring a laugh, or bring a tear.  With a few notes, we shared our diaries with those who listened, and by listening, they shared theirs with us.  With a few notes, term papers and tuition were forgotten and the world was as one- just for a few moments.

But I am not nineteen any longer. Although I still wear jeans, I have not owned Earth shoes or a body stocking since 1978.  My fingers are too arthritic to hold down the strings on a guitar, and my throat strains to hit the high notes. These days, I don’t sing in bars and coffee houses.  I sing with the radio in my car and although I can still layer harmonies over melodies, I know my days of singing before an audience are over.  But I still have a need to reach others- to bind us together with those things we all hold in common; love, fear, joy, sorrow.  Words on pages have replaced lyrics set to music.  Instead of sharing songs about lives I have never lived, I write about years I remember.  Days I have endured.  Moments I have cherished.  People I have loved.

Lest you think this story is a sad one, let me remind you that there are perks associated with aging.   Now, when I do something foolish, people hug me and call me “cute” instead of pretending they don’t know me.  If I try to carry anything heavy, or climb on top of a chair to change a light bulb, my kids freak out and take over the task for me.   I like this so much, I may start groaning whenever I have to clean the toilet or empty the trash, in hopes that they’ll take over those chores for me as well.

Younger people think I am old, but older people (and yes, there are people who are older than I) still think I am young.  In fact this morning on the elevator, a white-haired gentleman called me “young lady.”  Perhaps he is right.  After all, I’m only a little over eight years old… in dog years.


I never really liked the idea of aging.  Some people think of creaking bones and sagging skin as badges of honor.  They talk about aging as “having arrived,” as if it were a destination we have longed to reach. I’m not so much of a fan.

One of the things I hate about aging is how-long-it-takes.  When I was in college, I could sleep until 7:30, jump out of bed, pull on jeans and a sweater, brush my teeth and sprint a third of a mile in time to make my eight o’clock class.

Now, at fifty-something, I have to be at work for eight o’clock, and I live about a third of a mile from work.  Theoretically, I should be able to sleep until 7:30.  However, that is not the case. In order to get there on time, I have to get up at five thirty. 

Why so early?  Well, first there is coffee.  I cannot find the shower unless I first have coffee.  I cannot make decisions unless I first have coffee.  I do not speak, stretch, or think without first having coffee.  Early morning coffee must be slowly sipped in front of the morning news.  There I can slowly pry my eyes open, listen to the young and perky anchor tell me what I missed during the night,  and consult with the weatherman about what I should wear to work.

Next, there is “hair-and-makeup.”  Although separate components of my morning routine, one of these does not exist without the other, thus they are not “hair” or “makeup” but are “hair-and-makeup.”  There is an exact science to “hair-and-makeup.”  First I have to put in my magnefying contact lens.   I have to do this because I cannot see to do “hair-and-makeup” without my contact. 

First is the natural mineral makeup.  Beautiful young women with flawless skin sell this stuff.  If I rub enough onto my face, the age spots that miraculously appeared after a day at the beach last summer fade and blend into a murky shadow. 

Next is mineral blush. If I do not wear this to work, people greet me with “What’s wrong?” instead of “Good morning.”  I suppose if I wanted to get sent home from work, I could omit the blush. People would say “What’s wrong?” and I could shake my head sadly and say I can’t talk about it. They would send me home.  Maybe I should try that.

When I was young, I had eyelashes.  I did not wear makeup because people could see my eyelashes.  Now, even with my contact in, I can see eyelash.  Not eyelashes.  Eyelash.  If I carefully crunch black eyeliner around my eye lash, it looks like I once again have eyelashes.  I coat the eyelash with mascara, brushing the wand around my eye area, hoping that it might find other eyelashes.  I am usually disappointed.

The final part of “makeup” is Mineral Veil.  It is supposed to hide fine lines and wrinkles.  I buff it on, hopefully.  I think perhaps it has to find the fine lines and wrinkles before it hides them, so I do not despair when more fine lines and wrinkles appear as I buff.  I finally give up and remove my contact.  Miraculously, the fine lines and wrinkles disappear. So does my eyelash.

“Hair” is next.  When I had my first daughter, I had hair to my waist.  However, I found that my hair usually smelled of animal crackers, drool and popsicle.  The daughter stayed, the hair had to go.  Twenty five years later, I went to a college reunion and people gasped, “Oh, you cut your hair!”  Who doesn’t cut her hair in twenty five years? 

Now my hair is short.  I like low maintenance hairdos because I spend so much time on the “makeup” portion of “hair-and-makeup.”  Usually things fall into place pretty well, but last Friday, a coworker told me that I had kind of a “chicken” effect going on. 

“Oh.  Must be static,” I said. 

“Wise guy.  Hope you go bald” I muttered under my breath. 

I usually do “hair-and-makeup” wearing earphones and listening to my Ipod.  I have to keep the volume up very loud to hear Jason Mraz over the hairdryer.  I dry my hair with my eyes closed and the volume up.  I am seventeen again.  My head bobs, my hips sway, my feet dance.

A banging, not quite in sync with the song disturbs me.  It is my son at the bathroom door. 

“You almost done?  I have to get ready for work” You’ve been in there forever.” he grins.

Rats. I am no longer seventeen.  My hips hurt from swaying and my feet creak as I step out of the bathroom and climb into a conservative suit and sensible shoes.  I have to rush now, because “how-long-it-took” is longer than I thought.  Oh well.  Let them wait.  I’ve earned it.

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