It’s been a long time since I felt like the young’un in the room. Parent-teacher conferences are always the worst sort of reminder that I’m no spring chicken. I can remember when Paola was three and I sat in the peewee preschool chairs next to the twenty-something mothers listening to them chatter about their recent bikini waxes as my butt cheeks grew numb and my knees froze in place. While they chattered, I fretted as to how I was going to maneuver myself out of the dreadful chair.
I suppose I could drop to the floor and somehow roll to the table. No, they’d probably think I was doing some kind of stop drop and roll drill...And even worse, I might pass gas since my butt is too numb to squeeze while on all fours...
Inevitably, my thoughts would be interrupted by one of the well-meaning parents in the room commenting to me about my adorable granddaughter. It always perplexed the other parents that my “granddaughter” was black, but they were almost always bowled over when I explained that Paola was my daughter. Now that Paola is 11, I bet that I am the only mother who can attend “muffins for mom” in the morning and go to ceramics class at the Sharing Center in the afternoon.
The Sharing Center is an amazing place where seniors can play pool, do puzzles, exercise, dance, learn computers, play cards, play tennis, play shuffle board, swim and attend all sorts of classes for just $25.00 a year. I recently joined the “Sharing Center” (they’re trying to get away from the senior center stigma) a few months ago having reached the age of majority or, perhaps the more apropos “golden age” of over 50. I was even asked to show my ID to prove I was over 50! I think the lady at the desk said something like, “You don’t look a day over 45.” I was so flattered by her kind words - I almost kissed her. I never thought I’d see the day when someone telling me I don’t look a day over 45 would be considered a compliment! “I pushed 40 away a long time ago,” I laughed as I handed her my driver’s license, “and I’ve started my descent on the other side of the hill.”
My friend, Carol and I have become regulars at the pool hall, the swimming pool and of course the ceramics class. The ceramics class is a spry group as far as senior centers go. Most of them don’t use walkers and, if it weren’t for their blue hair, you’d never guess any of them to be a day over 70. One day Carol and I entered the room just as Helga asked Arnelle in her thick German accent, “Did you ask Mildred why she didn’t answer her f....ing phone!”
I couldn’t believe my ears! Apparently, neither could our gay instructor who gasped in horror. “Helga!” he screamed in his falsetto voice, “Did you just say what I think you said?”
“Yaa, don’t go getting your panties in a wadt!” Helga spat back. “I’m too oldt to be mincing words!” “That woman drives me nuts!” Helga Continued. “Do you know how lonk I’ve been tryink to talk to her!”
Just then Mildred entered the room.
Helga was the first to greet her, “Where the hell you been!”
“None of your damn business!” Mildred countered.
“Some freindt you are!” Helga continued unperturbed. “At least I answer my ‘f....ing’ phone!”
“That’s because you have nothing better to do with your time." Mildred smirked. "I, on the other hand, have been busy." she continued, "In fact, I’m going out of town for a while.”
“Where?” Asked Arnelle trying to diffuse the tension between the two ladies.
“Away.” Mildred replied mysteriously.
“Remember that road trip we took last year?” Grace chimed in. “When we rented that van and drove to Ohio looking for molds.”
At this point, I looked up from my ceramic pot that I was painstakingly painting. To say that I was intrigued by the geriatric road trip is an understatement. I regarded the group of four women; Arnelle, Mildred, Helga and Grace. I surmised that none of them were younger than 80. Arnelle soon confirmed my suspicion when she said that she was glad Grace was only 85 and had a valid driver’s license. “Imagine the nerve of them asking me for my marriage license, passport and social security card just to renew my license.” Arnelle lamented, “I’m 98-years-old for God’s sake and never even had a speeding ticket!”
“Well,” Helga chimed in, “That is why I have driver’s licentses from tree states - if one state won’t renew it - I just ust the utter one!”
“That was some road trip!” Mildred laughed.
What I gathered from the conversation that followed is that the ladies got tired of the same old ceramic molds offered in our Florida town so, they decided to go to Ohio where Grace knew of a place that offered unusual molds.
I pictured them all loading into the van. The two passengers in the back were Arnelle, the 4'5" 98-year-old who might weigh 80 pounds and Mildred who is taller than Arnelle by about 3”. I would guess her to be in her early nineties because her doctor told her when she was seventy that her cataract surgery would last her about twenty years and now her eyes are starting to go. I imagined that neither lady was visible to anyone looking from the outside in.
Grace, the driver, is a spry quick witted octogenarian. She always wears bright colors with huge matching flower pins that she makes herself. Her personality is as bright as the neon blue flower accenting her snow white hair. I could picture her behind the driver’s wheel of the rented van confidently mastering the controls while Helga served as co-pilot.
Helga is a bit on the heavy side. I’ve never seen her standing. She is always in the same chair when I arrive at ceramics and she usually is still there when I leave. I believe that she is in her early 90’s because she mentioned that her husband died a few years back at the age of 91. I have no doubt that she had a no-nonsense approach to co-piloting. I’m sure she kept Grace on her toes as they raced down the freeway. Their motto, “Ohio or bust”, was painted on the rear van window with shoe polish. According to Arnelle, they had initially planned to drive straight through but Mildred convinced them all that it would be really cool to stay in a haunted bed and breakfast in North Carolina (but that’s another story).
I had to laugh to myself as I listened to the dialogue filling the ceramics class. What an amazing group of ladies! “Wow,” I interjected, “that sounds like some trip! I wish I could have gone.”
“You!” Helga chided, “You’re just a young-un wit a family. You’d have slowt us down havink to call home and all!”
“Well doesn’t that beat all”, I thought to myself, “Me a ‘young-un’.”
I knew there was a reason I loved coming to ceramics class!