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Pale Marigolds by Claudia Parker

Aging, my mother would conspiratorially whisper to me, “I can’t believe I’m eighty.” Or eighty-five or ninety or whatever she was at that moment in time. I would give her a daughterly nod without thinking. Now I know what she was saying. The physical part grows old, but the spirit stays young, only more experienced. The curious part is that I notice my physical aging every day and pay more attention to my spirit’s container than I ever did before. So, if good luck and earthquakes hold still, my body and my spirit will both die around the same time.

My teeth, after years of coffee, tea and who knows what, are like yellow marigolds. My expensive dentist convinced me to be fitted for a tooth form which I would wear loaded down with wintergreen flavored chemicals which would brighten my teeth magically during the dark night. Sadly, no quarter appeared under my pillow and after four nights, my 62 year old teeth did look a little lighter, but my stomach was upset. I quit. My teeth are now pale marigolds.

My hair turned white prematurely, an inherited gene from my mother’s grandmother on the Getchell side of the family. It was fun for a while, being a “young”, white haired fifty year old. But now. No. The Avalon Salon hair stylist (remember when they used to call them “beauty parlors” and “beauticians”) says not only have I lost the pigment in my hair, but also my scalp pigment. So now I look like a white rabbit. Old, of course. On good days it feels sort of like a white halo and I feel pure and like I’m getting closer to heaven.

My breasts are still nice and round, but they have dropped and swing like the double pendulums in a grandfather clock (grandmother clock?). After carrying these around for 62 minus thirteen years, I developed deep grooves in my shoulders from the bra straps. I protect against further grooving with pads which my husband calls “shoulder falsies”. (Have you noticed that not only are we getting antiquated, but our language is outdated? “Falsies” isn’t even in my computer dictionary.) I remember when my daughter Amy, six years old at the time, was watching me dress and asked me if she could please have “tummy blossoms” when she grew up. Even though my blossoms have bloomed, I still like them.

My cracked, callused feet, toes, nails are serviceable, but no longer pink and soft. My round, sticking out tummy reminds me of my two precious pregnancies. I don’t wear much jewelry; it attracts my attention to the brown liver spots on my hands. Sun screen burns, so I wear oversized hats which make me look like the horrible snap shots of great-aunt Ted standing in her navy blue woolen bathing suit on the beach at Lake Tahoe.

But, the biggest aging shock came one night in a motel. (No. I was there with my husband on a trip.) I was in the brightly lit bathroom pulling out some granny hairs (terrible expression) when I looked in the mirror and saw Dorianna Gray growing old before my very own eyes. “Help!” I yelled in alarm to my husband. “I’ve got ten thousand more wrinkles than I had this morning!” “No, no,” he reassured me calmly. “It’s just that this motel mirror has better lighting than our bathroom.” Since then, I decided I love poor lighting.

Moving out of my feelings and into the logical part of my left brain, I question why I am so critical of myself and have such a poor self image. After all, it’s a fact of life that redwood trees and women’s bodies bloom, callous, crack, change color, groove, protrude and wrinkle. I decide to blame it on the media and the advertisers who show only twenty year old beanpoles modeling clothing and cosmetics in magazines, newspapers, TV and especially in the two dozen catalogues I get in the mail every day.

Being a woman of action and determination, I now tear the return envelope order form out of the catalogue and mail it back with this letter:

Dear Catalogue,

I’m a lovely, wrinkled 62 year old white haired grandmother with pale marigold colored teeth, brown liver spots, swinging pendulums, granny hairs, a pregnant looking tummy who walks around on cracked, callused feet full of the spirit of a woman in her prime. I can’t seem to find my picture in your catalogue. Until you do an about-face, and I find myself represented in your models, I will NEVER, EVER buy anything from you.

Claudia Parker

Claudia Parker’s pale marigolds can be seen around the San Francisco Bay Area where she is a writer and teacher.