The Frost Is on the Pumpkin

“The frost is on the pumpkin” does not always translate to mean something about temperature. To some of us, it means getting a bit “long in the tooth.”

I took a trip to the cosmetic counter simply because I was feeling a bit “frosty” and was in search of beauty and lost youth. I wrote about it, and the response was overwhelming.

Women wrote, called, and took me aside at gatherings. They wanted to talk about how they related to that piece. To sum up what most of them said… “I have been there,” “I have done the same thing,” etc.

I began asking what REALLY scared them about aging, and Snoopy (what I secretly call myself when interviewing) got some surprising and some not-so-surprising answers. I am not mentioning any names. I promised a protection program to all who spoke freely. Most of the people I talked to were worried about more than losing their looks. They were worried about what growing old represented.

Losing your memory or your marbles was high on the list.  Fears about money, loneliness, disease, and loss of sexual interest were just a few of the fears that were mentioned. Many women were terrified of being alone. Some already have trouble booking a lunch or dinner with one of their children and wonder what it might be like not to be needed anymore.

Having children is not an insurance policy; many people with children are often alone in old age. It is those fears that keep us running to the colorist, manicurist, and whomever else can disguise those marching lines called wrinkles. It’s our fears that send us off to have Botox, plastic surgery, and whiter teeth than we were actually born with. But what lies under those worries? I think there is an even deeper anxiety.

We don’t want to give away our secret, the secret that is crouched and hiding, but always ready to spring forward — the secret that aging is the precursor to dying. We all, sooner or later,  become aware that we are on the side of life where the sun is going down.

Death is the great wound of the universe, and the apprehension of death is the source of most of our fears, because we all know that there is no escape from it.

In this country especially, we worship youth, and talk very little about sliding off into the unknown; in fact it is rather taboo. I even hesitated about writing this, thinking some people would find it unsettling.

I remember when I did volunteer work for hospice; people told me that they just couldn’t understand how I could BE with those people when I knew they were going to die. I would say, “Why? I’m with you and you’re going to die.”

Once, I was telling a woman about a mutual friend of ours that was critically ill, and she asked me not to speak of it in front of her husband because he was the same age. Did she really think that not talking about death would make it go away? I am not suggesting that our minds should linger there, but I am suggesting that we deal with those fears, because then the intangibles become more important.

The moment of “now” becomes more exciting to explore. The soul shines through when we are content and unafraid, and that’s the part of us that I believe never dies. Accepting death might be a call to live more fully.

Superficial beauty will fade as surely as the frost will come to rest on the pumpkin. Vitality, wisdom and enthusiasm can keep your face looking young. Find something that ignites passion in your life. It might be a surer way to turn back time than all the aforementioned ones.

My mother left a note for all of us when she died. It simply said, “You kids have made me so happy.” My mom had a very hard life. So, my question is:  How do we live our lives so we can end them on a note like that?

Counting blessings, but not necessarily calories

Thanks and tears are what are more common to me these days, especially on special occasions… Both flow more easily as I am “longer in the tooth” now. When I was a little girl dressed in my holiday finery, thanks seemed a little boring. I just squirmed through it all and couldn’t wait for the adults to get on with it.

It’s heartfelt now and I am more appreciative for the chairs that are filled than for the food or anything else.

Today, the list of people I am grateful for seems boundless, but in the past few years I have become increasingly grateful for YOU, my readers.

I have seen you in the grocery stores, at the gym, and walking on the river path. I have encountered you everywhere and when I do, you say things like, I liked your column about going for a facial or about trying on bathing suits. You remember and mention a myriad of things I have written about.

I am always touched and honored that people take the time to read me. It humbles me and sends a little shock of gratitude to my heart hearing that said.

In any given year, I have listened to hundreds of people tell me their stories. I have asked them questions. I report what they said and I get the credit. I also am very grateful for my editor, Kim Williams, who makes sense of it all and puts up with me with more patience than I have ever known an editor to possess.

Many readers give me the credit for touching their hearts or their funny bone. They don’t know that they are my sources and my inspiration. The wonderful gift of writing a column is them. As a writer you get to observe more, learn more and ponder it all. I research things I never would have dreamt of. One of the greatest lessons of newspaper writing is that it’s a great big wonderful world out there…

So here we go… and you will see where it took me this week.

The first Thanksgiving was held in 1621 and bears little resemblance to the way we celebrate today. Researching for this column brought some interesting parallels.

For instance, although information is a little scanty, dinner was less vegetables and more meat. Kids today would like that. In the 17th century, vegetables weren’t part of their mentality.

They were not available to the colonists and no one worried about going to the health club afterward. Eating was simple; you ate to survive. Subsequently, we have gotten increasingly fatter with our current strategy.

Mom didn’t go to Trader Joe’s to buy a fresh turkey either. That FIRST Thanksgiving she sent at least four men out to capture venison and fowl. Dad did not have to put the extra leaf in the table or even sweat over the deep-fry turkey cooker. He had to bring home the kill with the Wampanoag Indians.

What manly men! They had no refrigeration so the men had to get lucky or their dinner would consist of dried food such as corn, ham, fish and herbs.

While the women today have to count backward as to when to set the oven so the turkey will be ready at the appointed time, among the pilgrims, someone was assigned to sit by the spit and turn it for hours.

People tend to think of English food as bland, but, in fact, the pilgrims used many spices, including cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and pepper and also dried fruit, in sauces for meat.

Unlike our computer-driven life where we can pull up a recipe in five minutes on the Internet, they mostly just improvised. When life is about survival I think improvisation abounds. Need often generates creativity.

They did not pass the food from person to person as we do today. The best food was set before the most important guest. They did not sample everything on the table either. There were no forks so they mostly ate with their hands and spoons and had big napkins.

Something new for you to do on Thursday might be to have the children serve you. In a pilgrim household, they did. Maybe I would have squirmed less if I had that responsibility.

Happy Thanksgiving.