Deep [?] Thoughts from an Average Person on the Week That Was: May 2nd Edition
The Four Seasons’ “Oh, What a Night” is currently on repeat in my mind.
Late December back in ‘63
What a very special time for me
As I remember, what a night….
It started when I answered a text with “What a week!” I guess this was close enough to the song’s title to shake loose a snippet of lyrics I wasn’t even aware I knew. It happens all the time: a random thought and an image, a movie quote, a jingle from an ad you heard once in 1982 pushes into your prefrontal cortex and lingers like a party guest who doesn’t know when to leave.
It’s a wacky place, the mental museum. So many, many memories. Most of them passively experienced and just waiting for their day in your nostalgic sun. Our capacity for logging, retaining, and recalling all of this detritus is astounding.
Earlier this week, the 103 year-old grandmother of a dear friend of mine died. Her name was Mary. My friend called her Nana. Had she lived just two more days, she’d have been 104. That’s a lot of time to make memories.
I didn’t know Mary well, but I’d met her a few times. She used to rent a big house on the Jersey Shore for a week every summer and invite her kids and grandkids and their kids to stay. On a few occasions, my friend extended the invite to me.
Mary was in her mid-eighties then. I’m sure I thought she was old. You think everyone is old when you’re 25. One summer, she brought flip flops for all of the women at the house. She’d customized their straps with ribbons and sequins and bright fluffy fabrics. When you wore them, it looked like you had a feather boa stretched across your toes. I’m pretty sure those flip flops are still somewhere in my closet.
Another time, I spent Christmas with my friend’s family in his hometown. After dinner, Mary took me into her bedroom in my friend’s parent’s house, and showed me her costume jewelry collection. (This must be a grandmother thing. My own grandma had done the same the Christmas before.)
She shared stories about a few of the pieces: where they came from, how old they were, who gave them to her. Unfortunately, I can’t remember any of them. But when she finished, she told me to pick a couple things I’d like for myself. I chose three bracelets: a two-inch rhinestone band that I later wore on my wedding day; a gold, floral embellished cuff that I wear on special occasions; and a hinged bangle with a 1980’s feel that I wore Wednesday night, when I joined my friend in celebrating Mary’s life on the day of her death.
My friend and I met at a piano bar in Astoria (Mary loved the piano); drank Manhattans (her favorite cocktail); and talked about the many ways in which she’d influenced my friend’s life. He later told me that he hadn’t realized what a big part she played in shaping him. Who he was, is, and will become. What a privilege it is to witness and bear testament to a life.
I guess that’s what we all want. To witness others and to be witnessed. To be remembered well, feel as though we’ve left some small mark, and know that we’ve positively affected the people and places we love most. It’s a small thing that’s actually a big thing. I know I’d like it for myself.
I hope your week was vivid and life-affirming. Below are a few things that comforted me, made me laugh, and made me think this week. Perhaps they’ll do the same for you.
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Has your mood changed since going maskless outdoors was officially sanctioned? Mine has. What a thrill it is to smile at people and actually see them smiling back. I’ve taken to sitting at the park in the evenings and beaming at anyone who passes by. (It occurs to me now that they might be smiling back because they think I’m a little off.) This article from the start of the mask mandate explains some of the science behind smiling. Also, its primary source is the Niedenthal Emotions Lab, which I repeatedly read as Neanderthal Emotions Lab, which made me smile even more.) https://time.com/5840192/mask-smiling-coronavirus/
In Israel, wishing people “Happy Birthday” includes the phrase “ad mea esrim,” — until 120. One woman in France made that a reality, and it may be possible for the rest of us soon. Not sure how I feel about this. Do we really want to be here that long? https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/28/magazine/human-lifespan.html
I think this article was meant to shock. As in, “You’d move house just to be near friends?” But it doesn’t shock me at all. Good friends don’t grow on trees. The answer for me is a resounding “yes.” https://www.christiancentury.org/article/first-person/my-husband-and-i-moved-be-near-friends
If I were rich, there are two things I’d do every week: get a massage and buy fresh flowers. Until then, here’s an easy way to do the latter — and make it look fancy schmancy — on a budget. https://food52.com/blog/22199-flower-arranging-tips-to-make-store-bought-bouquets-look-professional
I love this weekly photo series from The Atlantic. Heartbreaking, heartwarming, inspiring. It’s all things human all at once. https://www.theatlantic.com/photo/2021/04/photos-of-the-week-desert-highway-launch-symphony-mermaid-show/618753/
Machines that write as well as Kafka and Wodehouse? Oh dear. https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/the-computers-are-getting-better-at-writing
Just finished the three-part Hemingway documentary on PBS, and it is wonderful. A man even more complicated and talented than we knew. https://www.pbs.org/kenburns/hemingway/