From 25 to Grandmother in One Week
When a perky young couple moved into our neighborhood, I met the wife at a party another neighbor hosted.
She was a lovely 20-something eager to meet new friends. After a few minutes of ice-breaking chit-chat, she leaned in to me and whispered conspiratorially, “Where do you go to meet people our age?”
Taken aback by her question since we are separated by more than a decade, I said, “There are a few years between us. Exactly what age and life stage of people are you hoping to meet?”
“Oh, you know, our age,” she reiterated, and then uttered words that make my heart flutter even today. “Like 25.”
Bless that dear, dear girl. After adding her to my will, I found opportunities to work this little tidbit into every conversation.
“Oh, your dog died? It must have been old age … you know, I’m retro-aging. A woman mistook me for a 25-year-old the other day.” “The cost of gas is coming down this weekend? How interesting. Apparently, my age is, too.”
My elation was short-lived. I came crashing back to earth the following week when Isabella and I were at Panera Bread for breakfast. It was a rainy, let’s-have-a-treat kind of day. I packed up puzzles, coloring books and, of course, Candy Land. It was an ideal morning of quality time, one that reminded me why I had so earnestly sought out the title of Mommy.
A kindly looking woman in her 70s was reading her newspaper, peering frequently over the top to observe us. When she finished, she folded the paper and walked purposely over to our table. She said hello and told us how much she had enjoyed watching us play.
“You’re so good with her,” she gushed. “Are you her grandmother?”
For a moment, I thought my new neighbor was going to be able to cash in on her share of the will early. My heart stopped. My mouth went dry, and my tongue suddenly cramped up. Seeing my contorted face, the woman realized her mistake and backed away from the table quickly, muttering something I couldn’t hear for the pounding in my ears.
From a fresh-faced 25-year-old to grandmother in the span of seven days? It was a rough week.
I saw my mother-in-law not too long after that. It’s sickening, but true: My 85-year-old mother-in-law has the skin of a 50-year-old. She’s Sicilian (nee Nicchitta) and attributes her good skin to all the olive oil she consumes. I know it’s mostly good genes, and as I sat admiring her beautiful skin, I suddenly saw my future.
My husband, who takes after the Italian side of his family, is going to forever look young with his olive complexion. Meanwhile, my English skin will crinkle like parchment paper. I saw it in my Mema Stepp, who had deep crevices pinching a face that was quick to smile.
Decades from now, the sight of me standing beside Patrick at our daughter’s wedding will summon to people’s minds images of a Great Value prune and a ripe Santa Rosa plum.
Heavens to Betsy, I can just see it: One day (probably at Panera) someone will ask if I’m his mother. Blech!
There’s nothing to do but step up my skin protection. I’ll probably have to avoid sunlight and stay inside all day.
Thankfully, I know just where to hide out. I’m headed to my neighbor’s house, where I can forever be 25.
Melanie Coughlin is a Pinehurst freelance writer.
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