Miracles of Aging

April 10, 2017

Outside the Notre Dame Cathedral

How did I get to be this age?

It's the question many of us, ahem, mature folks ask ourselves. Wasn't it just yesterday we were getting our driver's licenses...changing our kids' diapers...attending college graduations? 

I know it's a cliche, but it does seem like it all happened yesterday. Blink and you miss it.

I don't miss it, funnily enough. I don't recall fondly the angst of my earlier years...the yo-yo dieting...my earlier marriages and divorces...the stresses of being a single mom fondly. Sure, my skin was more elastic, but I felt overburdened a lot of the time, trying to raise two kids while making my bones as an author and struggling to find my own identity. 

Now I've reached an age where it's no longer my job to fix other people's problems, namely my kids.' I can just enjoy their company and celebrate the differences, not only between us but minus any expectations I had when they were younger. They are their own, unique selves, living life on their own terms and by their own rules.

Never was this more evident than during my recent trip to Paris with my daughter, Mary. Our first mother-daughter trip as adults. A historic occasion!  We had gone on trips as a family, but never just the two of us.  Paris seemed the perfect destination. Mary speaks fluent French and had lived in France during her junior year in college and later when she did an internship in Avignon. I love Paris but had not visited in twenty years, so it was time. 

We arrived on a gray, rainy Friday and were delighted to find our accomodations to our liking--a sweet pied a terre in the Marais district that I had booked through VRBO.com. and that was situated on a block studded with wonderful shops and eateries. A fromagerie right across the street, a patisserie two doors down, a bread shop and coffee shop all on the same block. Viva La France! We were instantly in heaven before we'd done a lick of sightseeing. 

The following day we set out with our maps. To avoid long-distance charges on my phone I had turned off the cellular function, and without wi-fi while out and about, we were limited to old-school map reading. Eek! One trait Mary and I have in common: we're both directionally challenged. Never did I miss my hubby the human compass more than I did on that first day. But necessity is the mother of map-reading, so I plunged in, taking over the navigating while Mary put her French to work asking directions when need be. We got lost a few times, but I used the opportunity to introduce Mary to the notion of being "pleasantly lost," which I consider the silver lining to my directional dyslexia--it often leads me on some interesting "scenic routes."

We discovered a wonderful coffee shop where we enjoyed cafe cremes and croissants.  We wandered down cobblestone streets. We peered in shop windows. We strolled through gardens. We were in Paris! Viva la France!.

Caffe Creme & Croissant. Mais ouis!

The sun came out. Spring had sprung with trees in bloom and tulips poking from flowerbeds. 

We attended morning mass at Notre Dame Cathedral, where we lit a candle for my sister Patty who had recently passed away.

We toured the wondrous Saint Chapelle with its 360 degree stained glass windows.

We sampled the bistros of Paris, where dogs are welcome and tourists only if they behave (and speak French).

We took a day trip to the Palace of Versailles where we were suitably wowed, and came away thinking "Yeah, the French Revolution made sense. How could the peasants not be pissed off looking at all that gilded grandeur day in and day out while they starved?"The court of Louis VI was the original one-percenters. 

Home of the Original One-Percenters

What trip to Paris is complete without touring the Impressionist exhibit at the Musee d' Orsay? Three hours went by in the blink of an eye as we drank in the wonders of the art world. 

We visited chocolate shops, where I bought chocolates and fruit gelees to take home to my husband Sandy,enough to have me worried my suitcase would be over the weight limit. 

I ate everything, waistline be damned, and miracle of all miracles, didn't gain an ounce. We walked for miles every day, and we were in France where portions are smaller than in America and everything tastes so good, you don't need to eat a lot to feel fully satisfied.  

In the evenings we were usually too tired to go out to dinner, so we ate in: cheeses from the fromagerie across the street, bread and comestibles, fruits and veggies, pastries from the shops down the block.   

Pastries of Paris. Ooh la la!
Even the veggies were drool worthy

And you know the best part? The time spent with my grown daughter. 

I marveled at her gifts: her kindness, her curiosity about other cultures and her facility with language (she sounds like a native). I got to know her better as an adult than our mostly long-distance relationship allows (she lives on Maui, and I live in New York City). I discovered she's an early riser like me and we both enjoy the same foods iin the same quantities (though she would often forgo an entree, then end up nibbling off my plate), and love watching French shows and movies on Netflix. 

Whenever we got on each other's nerves or found ourselves slipping back into old patterns, one of us would take a walk or a nap.  

Oh yeah, and grown daughters (if you raised them right) wait on you instead of the other way around. In the mornings, I woke up to a pot of tea made by Mary and she gave me foot and neck rubs in the evenings when my dogs were barking and my bones aching. She did the laundry, mine and hers. She tidied up. She often asked, "Mom, is there anything I can get you?"

No, getting older isn't always fun. These days, I spend more time in doctors' offices in one year than I used to in a decade, and I'm in good health overall and not on any medications. My joints sometimes ache. And my neck...don't get me started on my neck (Nora Ephron said it best with her book title "I Hate My Neck").  

But the joys by far outweight any downsides. I was reminded of this while in Paris with my beautiful daughter, and in the photo journey I've taken with her in the days since as she continues on her travels throughout France. On Mother's Day this year I will count my blessings as I do every year and add an extra one with a little French flag on it like they put on the crossaints at Cafe Le Voltiguer.    

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Leila Ward on Tue, April 11, 2017 at 1:54:03 said:

Bless you for the gentle intimacy of this entry, your thoughts feel courageous and grateful.
My daughters are 42 and 38, and I have not achieved the closeness you express with your Mary. Once I did a past life regression in which my older girl was the bossy mother and the younger was the bossy older sister of me. And that is the way they have behaved in this lifetime. I see it all as great cosmic joke. It was relief to arrive at the place where i could ease up with them because just because we are related doesn’t guarantee that we will like each other. I love them as my babies but I doubt we’d ever be friends. Find your passion. Mine has been teaching, mostly grade 2. And photography, painting, writing and singing and dancing again this Sat eve after many years of hip, knee and ankle injuries. I worked very hard in the water doing physio and in yoga and now i have a strong core, legs and shoulders. I may never have to do the hip replacement. I want to go down swinging, with all my parts intact, not perfect but serving me well enough.      Leila Ward

    Eileen Goudge on Tue, April 11, 2017 at 8:34:57 said:

    Thank you for your heartfelt comment, Leila. My own journey with my children has not been an easy one. For years, Mary and I were at odds and didn’t see much of each other. We turned a corner when I stopped being mommy and advisor and started simply being a non-judgmental friend. I accept her life choices even though I don’t always agree with them. She, in turn, stopped treating me like an unpaid therapist and calling only when she had a problem or life crisis. It’s a joy to simply be in the moment with her, and while we do have our moments, it’s mostly good nowadays. Good luck with your ailments. It’s the new normal, right?

Reply
Anita on Fri, April 14, 2017 at 4:39:52 said:

Eileen,
Thanks so much for sharing this lovely adventure.  It was a pleasure to read.  Wonderful memories for you and Mary. 
Anita

    Eileen Goudge on Fri, April 14, 2017 at 5:24:14 said:

    So glad you enjoyed it, Anita! We sure enjoyed our trip. Precious memories of a precious time together. We look forward to returning next year.

Reply