My youngest sister just celebrated one of those landmark birthdays, the last of my four sibs to cross that line. I expected it to make me feel older, but it really hasn’t. I look at each of them and see how beautiful they are – each vibrant and young in their own way. And I’m not THAT much older…relatively…
When I had this particular birthday my baby sister sent me a red hat in a beautiful old-fashioned, rose-covered hat box. It was a joke and I loved it. I still looked young and felt even younger. That sweet, silly, extravagant hat has been sitting in wait for my sister to join me in this decade, which we will share for the next year, until it’s time for me to leave it behind.
I bought her a purple shirt to go with the red hat. The shirt, I must add, is a lightweight wicking shirt to be worn as she runs – 5Ks and half marathons – or maybe bikes with her husband across the state in 4 days. This one is definitely not aging!
To add to the fun, I ordered a copy of that iconic book, “When I Am An Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple” edited by Sandra Martz. I’ve read the poem, “Warning”, from which that line originates many times, but didn’t realize it had come to rest in an anthology on women and aging. The book is out of print, so it had to be specially ordered. When it arrived, I opened it in search of that poem, wanting to mark it so that my sister would be sure to see it. A half hour later, I was still standing next to the open Amazon box and reading poem after poem with tears gathering at the corners of my eyes. It is a wonder of language that words have the power to touch places in our hearts and open them wide. I will share a selection of these poems over the next few days.
This first share is more whimsical and I dedicate its presence here to my siblings, Valerie, Linda, Steven, and Catherine. I love you. ❤
by Jenny Joseph
When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.