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105 year old Aunt Zipora Rice from Sodom, North Carolina once said, “Time might be a great healer, but it ain’t no beauty specialist.”
That woman knew what she was talking about. As I march closer to the next era after our Fabulous 60s, that simple statement is proving truer by the minute.
Do you remember how we decorated for the prom with crepe paper? At seventeen, crepe paper was the sign of a good time. All the rich colors to choose from. We could twirl it and drape it from the bleachers to the stage, tie it in a bow to decorate the front of the punch bowl table and wrap it around the basketball poles, a simple camouflage. Crepe paper could change a gymnasium into a magical, memory-making ballroom. If it got stretched out and lost its shape, you’d just throw it away and grab a new roll. Presto, a fresh start.
Who knew crepe paper would eventually become part of our anatomy? Yeah, that ugly, crinkly-looking skin that has moved in and forced its taut, firm predecessor to vacate the premises. I’m talking about the triceps area, the inner thigh, the back of our hands and the most ubiquitous of all, the turkey neck.
Short of going under the knife, a fresh start is not a possibility. Even with firm, toned muscles hovering just below the surface, the crepe paper effect persists. Just wave at a friend and those “Hi, Helens”, those “you who’s,” that free-wheeling skin dangling from our triceps gives us away. So halter tops, cute sleeveless sun dresses and strapless evening gowns have found their way to the Goodwill. I now welcome turtlenecks, long sleeve tops and slightly longer shorts. So be it.
Time ain’t no beauty specialist when it comes to our faces, either. When I catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, I’m startled. Who is that looking back? That’s not me. I’m twenty-two, thirty-four, forty-eight. My skin is firm and smooth, no divots between my brows or red and brown blotches. My eyes are clear and open without folded layers of skin on my lids that make me look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy’s first cousin. My smile is defined by pearly white teeth and full red lips, not deep-set grooves shaped like parentheses on each side and a string of quote marks curved across my upper lip.
Who is that in the mirror?
Now I remember.
Each line was born.
I came by them honestly.
Those lines springing from the ends of my eyes are reminders of the hours of laughter shared with my sisters until tears covered our cheeks and our sides hurt.
From squinting in the sunlight as the catamaran skimmed across the incredible blues and greens of the Caribbean Sea.
The parallel trenches engraved across my forehead are reminders of the fear I felt the Halloween night a sheriff’s car pulled into our driveway at 2:30 in the morning. Was our son okay?
The fear I felt the night I heard an enormous explosion in the direction of the airport just as my husband’s plane was scheduled to land. Was David okay?
The grooves bordering my mouth like a set of large-text parentheses are reminders of the years my mouth forgot how to smile. When grief pulled down every inch of my face, of my being, like a boulder around my neck. My daughter was not okay.
Yes, time has a split personality. It can heal and it can leave its footprints. Aunt Zip had it partially right. Time can also create a unique beauty that only years of living to the fullest can polish. When a friend says, “you look terrific,” I don’t say something to diminish or qualify that statement. I say “thank you” and let myself feel beautiful.
I sometimes wonder about the clothes I relinquished to Goodwill. Hopefully a young girl is enjoying them. Maybe someone getting ready for the prom.