Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A Person in Fredericksburg.

The husband and I are usually pretty good about planning little adventures.  Getting together at regular intervals with friends and family, both near and far.  But with the construction of his music school in our back yard this summer, and the temporary poverty that new home ownership induces, we've kept ourselves willingly tethered to Austin.

Until, that is, somebody mentioned Labor Day last week.  It made me realize that summer was officially ending, and this was our last shot for a summer getaway.  I dove on Google in a fury, and frantically typed "Fredericksburg bed and breakfasts" into the search bar.

There was one affordable cabin left.  I booked it immediately.

It was on a little Swiss throwback ranch called "Baron's Creekside," and I found it on Yelp.  They said it was romantic.  They said there were ducks.  It sounded good to me.

What they did not say was that there were sweet, friendly cats all over the property, and while this hospitality feature may not appeal to everyone, it certainly appeals to Ross and I.  We are gluttons for feline affection, and our very first night there, helped ourselves to a cat who happened to be standing on our sidewalk.  We brought her inside, and to our delight, she didn't try to run away.

Thirty years ago, the sophisticated wine-sipping public laughed at "Texas wine," but now Fredericksburg and surrounding areas have cultivated a respectable stretch of vineyards.  We picked a good time to visit, because on Saturday, Becker Vineyards hosted a grape-stomping.

Now the truth is, I could go on and on about the wines we tasted, the quaint charm of Fredericksburg, and how much I desperately needed 48 hours away from a computer.  All of that was real.

But the highlight of the trip, for me, was this brief exchange I had with an older woman in Kerrville, and I can't get her words out of my mind.  I've been thinking about an appropriate way to frame our conversation, and I'm not sure there is one.  So I'll just tell you how it happened.

We had driven there from Fredericksburg on Saturday night, to catch a movie at the town's one local theater.  With plenty of time to kill, we stopped by a river running through the park, where I saw this tiny, fluffy dog.  I bent down to pet it, because really, with a face like that how could you not pet this creature?

I asked her owner its name.  She told me it was Precious, and that her children had given it to her after her husband died.

I stood up and we chatted for a bit; she introduced herself as Joyce.  Joyce remarked on my hair color, and I confessed: "It isn't real."

She smiled and said: "Neither is mine."

I laughed and turned to walk away, the words "well, it was nice to meet you, Joyce!" already forming on my lips.  But as I did, she said something that made me stay and listen.

"It was a deal I made with my husband, you know - this hair," she said.  "As he was passing away, he made me promise that I wouldn't turn into an old hag.  That I'd still do my hair, that I'd still put on makeup every day, that I'd still enjoy life."

I liked the wisdom of this.  Here was a selfless, yet practical man, who understood the way women worked.  I said, "I think you are beautiful."

She laughed loudly this time, the kind of laugh shaped by rueful amusement.  "Well I used to be," she said.  "I was voted Miss Buccaneer Days back in Corpus Christi.  I used to get a lot of attention.  I used to be a person, once."


And I can't stop thinking about that phrase.  "I used to be a person, once."  

It's been echoing in my head for the last three days.

They say that youth is wasted on the young, and I am a classic example of that.  I am 29 this year, and though I'd never thought turning 30 would scare me, it's created this overwhelming neurotic complex about what I have and haven't accomplished, paths I have and haven't taken, causing me to ask myself, "Is it too late to try X?  What about Y?  I really should have pursued X and Y when I had the chance, and now it's too late and now everyone else is speeding ahead of me and soon I'll be 30 and I'll have nothing impressive to show for this decade."  

It's ridiculous.

But it isn't just ridiculous because I tend to gloss over things I actually have accomplished.  It's ridiculous because I take for granted my visibility.  People pay attention to me now because I'm young and promising, but it won't always be this way.  

I think this is a common feeling as we start getting older.  That we begin to fade from the public eye, that we are less looked-upon, and in this culture, it's easy for the elderly to feel somewhat invisible.  Like they used to be people, once.

Joyce is debating whether or not to get heart surgery next month, because it's really expensive.  "I'm 80, girl," she said.  I said something kind of stupid in response, like how her husband would have encouraged her to go for it.  "Go for it?" I thought.  Who tells someone to "go for it!" when it comes to heart surgery?

I don't know if you're going to end up getting the surgery Joyce, and I doubt we'll ever see each other again.  But I am so glad I met you.

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