Monday, May 14, 2007

Crinkly Eye-Liner & Other Mysteries

A few years ago, I was peripherally part of a conversation in which my friend C asked my friend K about a little eyeliner problem she was having. K works at Nordstrom and is in the fashion scene of make-up, clothing, and other things mostly foreign to C and I. C wanted to know, "Is there an eyeliner out there that doesn't crinkle when I put it on...You know, one that doesn't go bumpity bump bump over my wrinkly eyelids like a plane struggling to land?" A few short years ago, the answer didn't apply to me, so, while K expounded an Eyeliner Treatise, I focused on other thoughts, in the exact way that I tuned out the C-section part of our birthing classes, arrogantly thinking, "this will never apply to me, I am having a vaginal birth!"

Just as I regretted my inattention when I found myself in the Operating Room, the doctor poised to slice my belly after a 24-hour labor, lately I'm wishing I would have taken astute notes during K's Cosmetics Advice Session, because I'm struggling with my own rough liner landings. My eyelids crinkle up and my line ends up looking like Sylvia (my three year old) applied it for me. (Of course, if you know my Sylvia, you'd know that she'd never actually apply my eyeliner, because, ahem, there wouldn't be enough of it left after she finished snacking on it).

Then there's this: Last weekend our family went to our church retreat. The retreat center is famous among the United Methodist kids for its enormous rope swing. You follow a winding dirt road to get to camp, and at one point, Eleanor thought we were lost, so she offered this helpful advice, her eyebrows scrunched in concentration: "Okay Mama listen-- you'll know you're getting close when you see the giant rope swing. Just look for the swing Mama and you're almost there!" Okay, will do... I understood why she said this, because, even from an adult prospective, this swing is a sight to behold. Three stairs lead to a 7-foot platform, which is perched on the flat part at the top of a sloping hillside. A round saucer, about a foot in diameter, is attached to the end of the chubby, long rope. It takes two people to retrieve the rope and hoist it up, between the legs of the person waiting on the platform. Once positioned, the swinger jumps off the platform and enters the adrenaline rush of swing heaven. If you weigh a lot, or get a little running start on the platform, then you have to be careful on the back-swing not to smash your head on the platform like a gooey Halloween pumpkin. When not in use-- and this means supervised by a Responsible Adult-- the rope swing remains padlocked against a giant tree nearby. You get the picture.

Last year, I declined the swing. "I'm the mother of three small children," I thought, "do I really need to take such unnecessary risks?" Eleanor went on it then, a small speck in the vast air, shouting gleefully in her 4 year old voice. This year, Eleanor did it again, and again and again, scaring the life out of me and the Responsible Adults by performing various "tricks," no doubt inherited from Tobin, who, on his turn, made a special point to dismount with a back flip or give the next person waiting on the platform a high-five on the back-swing.

So, this year, I gathered my courage, seasoned it with Eleanor's encouragement-- "come on, Mama, you will have sooo much fun!"-- and slowly made my way to the top of the platform as if shuffling toward the gallows. The first time was fantastic! I had vastly underestimated the initial whooosh I'd feel coming off of the platform, that spot right before the rope caught my weight and sent me propelling forward over the lush ferns and foliage below. I let out a little yelp of joy, and only thought just a teensy bit about whether I'd smash my face into the dirt upon dismount. When I was done, I went to the back of line, told an 8-year-old that no, she couldn't have cuts, and waited my turn to go again.

The second time: not so fun. The saucer got caught on my leg before I was ready; it didn't get firmly between my legs like it was supposed to. I felt myself being pulled from the platform but knew that the rope wouldn't catch me. The saucer slipped out, I half-jumped-half-fell from the platform, and I landed in the dirt far, far below. I sprang up like a jack-in-the-box, eager to demonstrate my well-being. I was fine at first. I even went back on the swing right away to prove it had no power over me-- me, scared to go again just because I just plummeted to my near-death? Pshaw! Bring it on. (Read: Oh dear God don't let me fall again!) But by the end of the day I was hobbling around, barely able to walk. The next morning my foot had improved enough that I no longer felt a trip to the ER was required.

Here's my point, friends: I think I'm getting a little old.

It seems a younger version of myself wouldn’t have fallen off that platform, and wouldn’t have been hurt in the landing. But maybe it’s just the sneaky, creeping gray hair and the crinkly eye-liner fooling me into using age as an excuse, because truthfully, I’ve always been a bit of a klutz.

But here’s another shred of evidence: I am having a miniature mid-life crisis. Well, maybe not a crisis so much as a Mid-Life Review. As you may have noticed on my fancy-pants blog page, I recently read “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” by Tracy Kidder. It is the story of the life of Dr. Paul Farmer, a genius doctor who devotes himself to healing the sick in Haiti, and in other poverty-stricken, underserved areas of the world. His philosophy: People are sick. I am a doctor. Every life is valuable. It is one of those stories that make one think, “Wow, good for him,” and then, “Phew, what a comfortable little life I’m leading…what else could I be doing?” Is this-- my current career-- how I want to spend my one “wild and precious" life?

I’m pretty sure the answer is no. Or at least “I don’t think so.” But the question remains, then what? What?

When I finished the book I warned Tobin that it isn’t a book that I’ll be finished with once I place it back on the shelf. I said it was one of those turning point books; one that inspired big changes, which might someday provide a point of reference such as, “Well, you see, back in 2007 I was reading this very inspiring book…”

We brainstormed a bit, and the next morning Tobin—Super Husband that he is—told me that he’d done some research last night and found out that he could definitely get a job in India. Just in case I was thinking that’s where I should go in order to lead this meaningful life. He was earnest. I have to say, it’s nice to be taken seriously; to be so unconditionally supported.

I spoke with my dear Grandmother on Saturday. At 86, she has more energy than most people half her age—indeed, more energy than I think I’ve ever had. When I asked her what she’d been up to she mentioned that she’d mowed only part of the lawn that day, but she hadn’t finished it because, well, for some reason, the lawnmower just got too hard to push. She figured that the blade had been set too low. I stifled a laugh, and then a cry, as I thought, perhaps it’s because you’re 86 and your lawn in enormous?

I hope it was just the blade setting, because, as my Grandmother told me a couple of years ago, “Getting old stinks.” You know, what with the crinkly eye-liner and all.


Seattle Mamacita said...

i love how you so cleverly piece together so many poignant moments in your life in this piece and throughout all of your writing... Such talent! i think writing is your calling...a good curry and a laptop with a view of the Taj Mahal and... just imagine all the new spices Sylvia would have for the tasting...

slouching mom said...

I absolutely loved this post. So thoughtful and SO well-written.


bgirl said...

ally, i love your storytelling, i am a captive listener. and i especially love the shot of tobin -- wahoooooo!

Nancy said...

This is a great post. You wove so many aspects of life into it -- and since I'm struggling with my own "mid-life review" (a new phrase I love!) I can definitely relate.

I'm glad you stopped by my blog the other day -- it's always awesome to discover great bloggers!

tce said...

Thanks Ally for sending your blog to me. I have so much enjoyed reading your posts. I feel I know you and your whole family better :) Thanks

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