We are actors in a break room in an office building on the far west side of Manhattan. It could almost be any city bordered by water for all the new office buildings going up around it. I hardly recognize my hometown anymore, especially in neighborhoods that once lay fallow.
I can’t tell you the name of the show, or the network, or the stars I may have played next to, but I can give you a glimpse inside the day of a background player on a TV series being made on the set of a major studio in New York City.
I’m having a hard time getting in the spirit this season. November knocked me out, first with a killer flu complete with fever, bad dreams and a deep cough, then a residual vertigo and persistent ennui. My daughter cooked our Thanksgiving dinner, which we limited to immediate family to prevent transmission of the virus.
No one has ever accused me of being particularly funny. I can usually elicit a warm, hearty laugh from my husband for my sharp wit, but he never suggested I take my act on the road.
I called him Beau because he was beautiful. When I first saw him, he was little more than a football-sized shape that became more defined as I got closer. A hawk’s beak, a wing half-extended. I stopped the car and walked back to him. He watched me but didn’t budge. I spoke calmly to him. His head swiveled to keep me in sight.
“Perhaps the most revolutionary act for a woman will be a self-willed journey—and to be welcomed when she comes home.”
— Gloria Steinem, “My Life on the Road”
Summer. Why can’t it be ever thus? Birds of every feather on the wing. Morning glories climbing on the trellis, bees and hummingbirds hovering over blossoms. In places like this, part-timers like me are ensconced in our getaway lives, sinking into our passions, painting or writing or sawing wood. Seeing.
There is a certain freedom in being a senior citizen, if you are willing to own up to it. There are the discounts, sure. But there is also the free pass to do what you want, up to a point. I don’t want to go to more than one social event in a day. Was this different a month ago? No. But now I give myself a pass and go to the one I choose.
“How does it feel, Mom?” my daughter asked in a phone call recently. I had to ask what she meant. “Turning 65,” she answered.
Oh. That. I’m not sure. I think about it. The Federal government makes sure of that. I read the Medicare book like a textbook, making margin notes. Using highlighter. The deadline looms like an SAT test.
I picked up scars on the road to enlightenment. I wear gloves now. They were the gloves I use to pilfer japonica berries and forsythia on the roadside. I kept them in the driver-side door pocket, where they fit neatly with my spring-loaded pruners.