Postcard Memories

20160525_105034 (1)

The faded postcard peeked out at me from my desk drawer, and the memories gently unfolded.  This was a photo of the quaint old inn in Manchester, Vermont, where my friend and I spent a weekend to celebrate our 50th birthdays (I can’t believe that was fifteen years ago).  We were close friends, neighbors whose children played together; it was one of those relationships where it is hard to discern the separation between friends and family.

Karen and I decided that spending a weekend away from the craziness of our everyday lives would be our treat to each other as we turned fifty.  We made reservations at The Village Country Inn, and left early Friday evening, the week after Thanksgiving, to enjoy some quiet time in Vermont.  The inn was every bit as lovely as the postcard depicted, with each room decorated in its own individual Victorian decor (which was then so popular).  On Saturday we were scheduled for a tour of several inns that were close by, all decorated in their Christmas finery.  They were all beautiful, though each very different from the others; I was pleased that we were staying where we were, because I thought our inn was the most lovely.  

We made our way through the various shops and little antique stores in the area, as well as spending some time back at the inn, enjoying afternoon tea, sitting in the warmth of the bar late in the evening, having a delicious breakfast in their breakfast room with its white-latticed walls, and quietly talking in our own room — how wonderful to be able to sit together and talk without the multitude of interruptions that punctuated our conversations at home.  There was a journal in each guest room, where we both wrote entries about ourselves and our stay at the inn.  On Sunday, before we left, we purchased pretty delicately-flowered mugs from the inn’s gift shop — somehow, midst the chaos of our lives, we have both managed to save these mugs as a reminder of that lovely weekend.

 Little did we know then of the paths our friendship would take, or that we would one day be in-laws, sharing two precious grandchildren.  Our lives have moved in different directions, and though we still remain friends, the time we spend together is much more limited.  Maybe that is what makes this long-ago weekend so special to me.  I am thankful for our long friendship, for the fact that we are now really family, and for this postcard that brought back so many beautiful memories of that lovely weekend in Vermont.   



For the past couple of years, I have attended what we call “mini-reunions” of our high school classes of the late 1960’s.  These reunions are the brainchild of one of our classmates who keeps in touch with a great many of the people who attended our school.  They are simple gatherings which occur in September and in May.  We congregate in the bar of a local bowling alley — a cozy room that perfectly fits the forty or fifty people who meet for a drink or two, whatever food happens to be brought, and an evening of good conversation and much laughter.  Most of us live locally, but we are sometimes pleasantly surprised by classmates who come from afar.

I love these gatherings.  Our suburban high school was fairly upscale and composed of various cliques, and there were many of us who never quite fit in.  At this juncture in our lives, though, we are all just happy to be together to reminisce and connect with each other on a different level.  We are not there to impress anyone with our wealth or stature.  By the time you reach your mid-sixties, you are what you are.  We have lost many classmates and friends, and are grateful just to see the faces of those that are still here.

Perhaps one of the things I enjoy the most are the deep conversations that occur midst the joviality.  We share not only the joyous stories of our lives, but also the darker moments.  I am truly impressed with the courage of those who have lived lives much more difficult than anyone could imagine, and yet carry on, each bearing their burdens with strength and resilience.  I am touched by the stories, and by the honesty of those who share them; I know that in the sharing, I come away from the evening hopeful that we have all helped each other in some measure by listening and caring.

For those few short hours, we exist in both the past and the present.  We remember ourselves and our friends as we were, not necessarily as the aging people we are today.  I look at the faces of these people, and I see them as young, beautiful, handsome, and hopeful.  And yet, as I talk to them all and laugh with them, we forge new bonds, supporting and enjoying each others’ friendship in these “golden” years of ours.

I am grateful for these evenings, experiencing the camaraderie of people who share not only a history together, but also celebrate the chance to spend time together as our older and wiser (??) selves.  

I am reminded of a lyric from a song, “To me you will always be eighteen, and beautiful, and dancing away with my heart.”  






To Retire or Not



As I stood in the grocery store yesterday, I heard a woman say, “My husband wants me to retire when I’m sixty-two, but I would be too bored.  What would I do?”  I felt sorry for her; could she really have nothing in her life but her work?  And I thought of the people I know who are retired or semi-retired, and I wanted to reach out to this woman and tell her that retirement could be one of the happiest times of her life.

The greatest gift of retirement is time — time to do those things that we enjoy, and often had to postpone or guiltily fit into our already full schedule.  I have savored every moment of my retirement years.  I care for my grandchildren while their parents work, so my free time has been somewhat limited, but I have managed to enjoy gardening and the birds and little creatures who share the garden with me, and to pursue my hobby of flower arranging and my desire to write.  I work a bit on my genealogical research, read obsessively, spend time in my kitchen, take long walks, poke through antique shops and estate sales for additions to my various collections, and take photographs of anything that captures my imagination.  My life is full.

I have many friends who are retired and busily involved in the things they love to do.  Some travel, some volunteer in all sorts of organizations.  There are those who spend their time in more athletic pursuits and others who work part-time in occupations they enjoy. We all have more time to spend with family and friends.  Free time is an invaluable treasure; we have worked, raised families, and been responsible citizens for most of our adult lives, and as we retire, we find a new freedom — the freedom to spend our days as we please.  

And, I wish I had turned to this woman in the grocery store and told her how wonderful retirement can be.  Perhaps she will change her mind and find out for herself that she won’t be bored; rather, she will treasure the gift of time to discover new pleasures in her life.  Or, maybe she really does have no interests except her job, and she will go on happily working each day at an occupation that deeply fulfills her.  


20140426_150150 (2)