It was going to be great. Allison and her mom had the beach house for the holiday, the far-flung kids would all be there, Jenny and Tom had found a way to join the party, and, here’s the amazing part, Jan and his family would be joining us all for the big celebration. You remember Jan, our exchange student from Germany all those years ago? Jan, pronounced “Yan,” in case you’re confused, his wife Angelika, and their Lotte and Oskar.
Great enough that I cowboy-ed up and climbed on an airplane, the second flight in a fortnight, I might add. Yeah, what’s a fortnight? Okay, longer than that, but still.
We arrived in the foreign country of Newport Beach, CA. Or more specifically, the island of Balboa, to learn that Angelika had tested positive. They would not be joining us.
Well, damn. Okay, maybe Jan and the kids could come over as planned the next day, and we would all sit outside, masked.? Meanwhile, A and P’s friends, the Lees, had offered a ride down the canal atop their pontoon boat. It’s so gorgeous there, you would want to immediately quit your jobs, sell your houses, and move to Balboa. But you can’t. Not unless you have about 8 to 10 spare million for one of the houses on sale there in the realtor windows.
It’s true, but I do want to make one thing clear: Allison’s great grandmother had purchased their place in 1925. Not sure if that was for the land or if the cottage had already been built, but it cost $1500, Margie, Allison’s mom told me. It’s pure charm, adorable, surrounded by expensive splendor. Right on the canal, you can sit on the patio and watch people canoe, paddle board, jump off the bridge.
But I want to stop here and perform a public service. It’s about the important bitter-sweet rules of being an old lady. Of which I am one. You know how you look at an elderly person and think “do I look that old?” Yes, in fact you do.
We’ll start here. I’ve been led to believe that old people fall down all the time. I haven’t witnessed examples of old people crumpled here and there all around, but at every intersection with a person of the medical persuasion I am asked “Have you been falling?” My advice, therefore, is Watch Your Step. Don’t trip, stumble, think no-one will notice. “There goes another one down,” and your Primary Care will hear of it and take away your driver’s license. Or your daughter-in-law will tell your daughter, and that’s just as bad.
Next, yes, extra-long black false eyelashes are definitely in style right now. We’re all so tired of those masks covering up our beautiful smiles, so let’s focus on our eyes. But they’re not meant for you, my fellow LOL. Little Old Lady. Tattoos? Probably better give them a pass. Okay, how about those super short skirts or shorts which reveal the whole butt from the thong out? I’m thinking no. Please.
It’s okay if you can’t figure out how to acquire your boarding pass on your phone. Make your son do it. Calling for Uber from Starbucks can be tricky if your phone won’t do what you tell it to, but don’t worry. There’s a young person nearby who will be willing to help. You just have to ask, and if she calls you “honey,” that’s okay, too.
People may want to do things for you that you can do perfectly well yourself. And “Are you okay to walk here, on the sand?” Of course you are. “Can you manage these stairs, or should we take the ramp?” Jesus. No snapping. You have to accept this sort of thing with the grace which you have learned in your long years.
We know how funny we can be at a gathering. Right? One grandkid tells a cute story about how he was busted buying beer, how he had to give up the fake I.D., turn over the beer and ride his sorry ass home on his bike. But your story about how Boris Johnson’s resignation is the first instance in history of sinking ships leaving the rats just isn’t equally funny in this setting. Wait for your book club. They’ll get it.
Above all, don’t try to use a foreign language. What do “swag” or “queen” even mean? Not what you think.
What I’m saying is, it’s fine to be old you. Wear something expensive and gorgeous, even if you pick it out at the Good Will store, and smile your beautiful enigmatic smile. Remember that you were young once, and they’ll be old soon enough. Then have another glass of that lovely Moet.
Back to Balboa! Jan and his two kids did come over to the cottage the next day. We sat outside, wore our masks, and managed to have a lovely, funny time. His daughter, Lotte, is the age Jan was when he arrived in Oregon to live with us for a year. She’s beautiful, and it’s hard to comprehend how mature 16 years old can be. Of course, Covid changed everything for those school years in Germany, too.
And our grands? Amy living in a brownstone in New York, working. Charlie spending a semester in Vienna, then a couple of weeks in Jordan, I think, riding an uncooperative camel. Alli in Europe and what she loved most was her time in Poland, visiting, among other wonders, a salt mine. The little cat which adopted her in Mykonos. Andrew cooking lamb racks with Grandma Margie, and Will working for a moving company over the summer. Better pay than the golf course of last year, and more interesting.
Here’s the one photo I can offer:
Left row front: Will, Alli, Jenny. Top, behind the POLY shirt, Charlie, Andrew, Peter, Amy. Front row middle: Margie, Allison. I’m assuming you can identify me, Larry.
Okay, so how long is a fortnight? Fourteen days. Seems the old English counted the nights, not the days, so “fourt” “fourteen” and “night” was because the two-week period was fourteen nights.
Back home at the farm, the dishwasher is chugging, Larry reading the Economist, and me? I need to go practice! Banjo camp is approaching.