Friday, July 25, 2014

Your Mother Always Told You…

…there were going to be people in your life that didn’t like you, and people you didn’t like.

She was right.

Saturday, July 19, 2014


Patina (Merriam-Webster):  “a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use”

This last couple of weeks has brought me several instances of things associated with age and patinas.

I’m a regular denizen of Luby’s.  Anyone who grew up in Texas will associate Luby’s with family dinner after church, going through the line and begging for the chocolate pie heaped tall with merengue; Dad threatening trips to the parking lot with his belt for any misbehaviour, the drink-cart ladies,  etc.  (Arkansas people:  substitute “Franke’s”). 

More lately, Luby’s is associated with old people.  Drive up into any Luby’s parking lot and you’ll see their still-shiny Buicks, Mercury Grand Marquis’, and now Lexus’ and Avalons.  Go inside and there will be an abundance of walkers, canes, and white hair.  The polite staff knows many of the patrons by name (including, ulp, ME).

Luby’s is no longer cheap, and their food is neither as good nor as plentiful as it is in my memory; nor am I quite ready for a walker.  Nevertheless, I go there.  It’s down the street from my house; I can still get out with a Lu-Ann and water for $7; they cook it; they bus the table; they wash the dishes.  I can stay on my diet.  They don’t put much salt in the food.  It’s a win-win. 

Just an aside:  interesting how a certain brand or item becomes associated with certain ages or groups of people.  Buick?  In America, old people.  In China?  Ultimate status symbol.  Ford dropped the Grand Marquis rather than try to morph the brand; it had become so associated with “Granny” that they felt it was an impossibility (they are making the attempt with Lincoln).  Cadillac has semi-resurrected itself, but it has taken them billions of dollars and two decades to do it.  You still don’t hear a young person (as you did in the 60’s) say, “Wow, when I can afford one, I want to drive a CADILLAC!”

The fact that something is old does not mean it is no longer beautiful.  The nature of its beauty may merely have changed.

Estee’ Lauder, the cosmetics diva, was famous for a remark she allegedly made when she was a very old lady being interviewed by a very young female reporter.  The young reporter asked her, “Mme. Lauder, what would you recommend for me?”  The answer:  “Nothing.”  “Nothing!?”  “Yes.  When you are young, your youth IS your beauty.  As you get older—come see me.”

I have an old piece of gold jewelry.  It was worn daily for many years and, while it still gleams as only gold does, it has the thousand tiny marks and dents that daily use makes in such an object.  They form a lovely patina on the piece.  Does it look new?  Certainly not.  Can I buy a new one almost identical to it that will glisten and gleam and be totally shiny and without blemish?  Of course.  Would the new one have the character, the mileage, the patina of the old one?  Not without about 60 years of daily wear.  That jewelry was around while its owner fixed dinner, scrubbed floors, washed dishes, changed diapers, washed clothes, made beds, soothed fevers, hoed, raked, worked, played…and it grew old with its owner.  It speaks of a life well lived.  A new piece would certainly be shinier, but would never have the unique patina this one has—only promise.

Matt was over at the house last night, and suffered to hear me tell the story of the jewelry once more.  Looking around, he remarked, “you do have some pretty cool stuff.”  It’s interesting that a very young man, who prefers his fashion and his d├ęcor ultra-modern, can see the coolness of something that has survived the years, perhaps acquiring the unique patina that tells of its use (perhaps by many different people) along the way.

While on a business trip last week, I was in San Antonio (as usual, hotter-n-hell Texas).  Two ladies were coming in from the pool as I finished checking in and headed to my room.  The younger one, late 40’s/early 50’s, shorter, bleach-blonde, was in pretty good shape.  Swimming?  Tennis?  Something to keep her in decent condition.  The older, taller one was in her late 70’s (?)  Her (sadly thinning) hair was a henna that would make Lucille Ball proud.  She had, unfortunately, the osteoporosis to which so many women are subject; her back was hunched to the left side, not grotesquely but bad enough that I briefly thought, “Hunchback of Notre Dame.”  When I saw their faces (they were carrying on an animated conversation), it was obvious they were mother and daughter. 

Both of them were obviously “lookers” when they were young.  “Mom”, especially—tall, statuesque, long, long legs—you just know that when she walked into a room in 1962 dressed in, say, a Balenciaga thin-silhouette frock, with her then-thick, then-auburn hair up in some complicated ‘do and some high heels, makeup, nails and jewelry perfect, she had the men following her around the room with their tongues hanging out.

It struck me then that, though the ravages of age were taking their toll on Mom—hunched back, wide at the hips, (pardon this next one) “Granny boobs”, varicose veins, plus that –amazing- henna rinse—she had a patina of dignity and grace about her that only the old can have, a dignity and grace her daughter had yet to achieve.  Her former beauty had gone—but, as compensation, she had the patina of her life written on her face, hands, and body.

Not such a bad trade.