Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I'll Call it Practice

So yesterday I was reading poetry with my ten year old brother. Well, I was reading it because I'd googled Maya Angelou's "Still I Rise" and proceeded to scroll through the rest of's top twenty list. He just looked over my shoulder and provided thoughtful, sarcastic comentary. He does that a lot. Anyways, we got down to #21. I liked it, he liked making fun of me for liking it.

by Jenny Joseph
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people's gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.      

Love it, love it, love it. And now my brother has to buy me a red hat sometime in the next thirty five years.
I've thought before that I'm going to have a lot of fun when I'm sixty. You can get away with anything. Politicians are stupid and inexperienced because they don't have your decades of knowledge and didn't live through that one war and that other economic disaster. You can grab random teenage boys at intersections and force them to walk you across the street. You can be as opinionated as you want. You're allowed to backtalk anybody, and they just have to sit there and smile through it and say "Yes, ma'am." It's not even backtalk anymore-it's a well deserved lecture. Restaurants and movie theaters and places give you discounts. All the cool junk you've kept since you were a kid is no longer junk, it's an antique collection. People beg you to touch it and you can slap their fingers away if you don't want them to.
I want to be like my seventy-something former Sunday School teacher. She had our class for two years and was so fond of us by the end, she invitied us all to a John Wayne themed party in her John Wayne themed basement. With homemade apple pie.
I did a little research on the poem. And when I say research, I mean wikipedia. Jenny Joseph (that's her at the top) was twenty nine when she penned this famous poem, still young by most people's standards. The second line inspired an organization called the Red Hat Society. There are thousands of chapters in the US alone, as well as Argentina, Australia, Austria, Canada, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Greece, Guam, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxemburg, Mexico, Namibia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Peru, South Africa, Sweden, Taiwan, Trinidad and Tobago, and the UK.
Fashionable ladies getting together for tea parties and stuff
I wonder how much she did practice for her behavior in her old age. Can I do the same things-sitting down on the pavement and ringing alarm bells-and get away with it by calling it practice?
Yeah, probably not.
Lately I've been dreading growing older, mostly because I'm afraid I'll lose the opinions and ways I look at life now, that I'll just be another adult looking down on teenagers. Looking down, but never looking back.
Jenny Joseph has reminded me that I have something to look forward to. Warning, indeed!

"I never dared to be radical when young
For fear it would make me conservative when old."
-Robert Frost

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