Pilgrims & Purple Hair
There’s a dust magnet that looks exactly like a black guitar, sitting on a stand in the corner of my office. When I look at it, I see just another first-rate example of the peculiar impulses that have been stalking me over the last twenty years. I have been susceptible to whimsy, manipulated by foreign, Boris Karloff-like voices that provocatively whisper suggestions in my ear, like, “you want to learn to play guitarrrrrrr.” And I’ve been listening. Again and again. My brother, the pragmatic scientist, told me recently, “you just aren’t satisfied with anything, are you?”
I don’t know why his observation surprised me, but it did. In fact, I wouldn’t use the word “surprised.” I would use the word, “totallyoffended.” I’ve been giving it some thought, though, and I’ve decided that, just maybe, he wasn’t completely off the mark. For good or evil, I like change. I need change. Change is good. When I was growing up, I rearranged my bedroom furniture every few months. It was so refreshing to walk into a room that looked–and felt–completely different. The fact that it got a thorough cleaning out at the same time might have had something to do with it, but the point is, I needed a new landscape, and I didn’t let my 98-pound frame get in the way of moving an oak dresser to get it.
Changes have been coming fast and furious since my entrance into mid-life, a few of which have come whether I wanted them to or not. Every day, I discover something else about myself that has wrinkled, sagged, or failed to work like it did the day before. Fat cells, like little Pilgrims, are finding new and exciting places on my body to settle, and I know from history books that it’s only a matter of time before other, equally stalwart fat cells follow in their footsteps. Not only am I getting fatter, I’m getting older. And shorter. I now understand the phrase, “at the height of her career.” It’s pretty much downhill from here. Literally.
Some changes have been self-inflicted. When I turned forty, I changed my hair from long to short-short, from a sort-of mousy-ish swollen-river brown to an unforgettable, not-to-be-mistaken, burgundy purple with auburn highlights. It almost glowed in the dark. Forever, from that point forward (for a few weeks, anyway) I was known as the “lady with the hair,” as in, “have you seen the lady with the hair?!” That was also the year I dumped my old, reliable, steadfast station wagon for a flighty, inconsiderate sports car—or rather, a sportier car. It was a 1992 Ford Probe, a standard 4-speed, 4-cylinder, front-wheel drive hatchback that carried a whopping 115 horses under the hood. It was Calypso Green, which I thought was providential, since it complemented my new hair perfectly. Two years later, I traded to a coupe with an automatic transmission, and two years after that I went back to peppy and cute, and two years after that…well, you get the idea.
When my husband decided to buy a new motorcycle, I learned to ride his cast-off. To some, that may seem more suicidal (or just plain stupid) than adventurous, but it was a chance to try something I had never dreamed I’d try. It was either that, or jump head-first out of an airplane–and that wasn’t going to happen. I ran that puppy into a curb or two before I decided I needed an even bigger motorcycle. During the test drive, I dropped it, and then felt obligated to buy it after they fixed the busted taillight. I’ve run red lights and stop signs, not because I didn’t see them, but because I can’t tell the difference between three feet and thirty feet. Once, I came to a halt half-way through a busy intersection, without (and I have no idea how this happened) getting killed or squashed flat by a truck. My luck ran out last year when I failed to make a curve in the hills of Arkansas, ran off the road and landed in grass, wedged between a chain link fence and a thick, white, wooden sign that read, “St. Paul Bible Church.” It was a good thing, too, because I was headed straight for a very large, very hard, brick wall.
After I conquered the motorcycle (I suppose “conquered” is a relative term, considering my history with one), I was feeling like I could do just about anything, so I bought a piano on sale and signed up for lessons. It’s been a few years now, and I still don’t know a whole lot about it, but I did learn enough to develop a repertoire of three songs that I can play with relatively few errors, and without looking at the music, which is important, because I can’t play piano and read music at the same time. It’s like texting while driving. It’s just an accident waiting to happen. Ask anybody who’s heard me. Once, when my mother was alive and living here, she made it a point to stop by on her way to the kitchen to tell me it sounded like I was skinning a cat. A comment like that would have derailed the old me forever, but I’ve grown since then. Now, I don’t care what anybody else thinks…earplugs aren’t that hard to come by.
It’s safe to say I’m not satisfied with the status quo (which is just another way of saying my attention span is microscopic), but because of that, I’m getting smarter, braver, and more content with who I am, or rather, who I will become. There’s no getting around the fact that I have more of my life behind me than in front of me. Closing time at the old fun-park is coming up fast, and I haven’t ridden all the rides, or eaten all the food, or watched all the shows. Now, they’re kicking people out, and the only thing left to do is follow the crowd through the gates to the parking lot. I’m not going willingly, though, because I’m not finished yet. I’m still learning to take risks, and I’m still learning it’s not fatal to fail. So, when I hear a voice telling me I want to play guitar, I don’t ignore it, because it might be right.
I have one last confession: Over the last few years, I’ve had all the walls in my house repainted. I’ve bought new curtains, new living room furniture, a new wide-screen TV and an new entertainment center to put it on. I couldn’t help it.
It was time to move the furniture.