Wednesday, January 20, 2010

You say it's your birthday

Amelia started shaving years off her age early on in her career. Hard to believe that a woman who showed no outwards signs of vanity, cared. But she definitely did. Muriel said she would have hated growing old. She was like the rest of us I suppose. Though some hate it more than others. And society presses us to capture youth and bottle it. We're no longer even allowed to joke that we're thirty nine, that's ancient. Actresses who I admire feel the need to medically alter their looks when they're half my age. Older ones show up and I can no longer find them. They've become someone new, when they wake and look in the mirror who do they see? How do they know themselves? And how do they emote when they can't smile or frown?

Each line is a road-map back. Without them, we may seem freshly minted, but we also lose something in the process. Yes, it's my birthday. Again. Glad to have one. Glad to move on. I look in the mirror and see the same person who was there yesterday, that at least is familiar. There's enough in the world that isn't. We are born into a family, some of us cling to it, others make a new one.

In her early letters Amelia is filled with enthusiasm. She agitates and cogitates and manages to forget certain salient details, like Muriel's imminent arrival for a visit. "Muriel is coming the weekend with me, I think. Reg has asked me to so many things and I haven't gone once so finally consented to go to a senior professional hockey game on Saturday-not remember at the time about Muriel. It is the game of season and he asked me a week in advance. Isn't that simple? I guess I'll cancel it." Later on, she manages to avoid Muriel's home in "Mudford" on numerous occasions. The name is meant to be cute, but it's hardly complimentary.

Amelia was a dutiful daughter, a generous sister who never let either her mother or Muriel forget her role. Someone had to be the caretaker, someone had to think about money . . .

You can't do everything or be everything, Amelia chose to take hold of what she loved most and stay true to it. She didn't seem to be overly empathetic, which is ironic considering her laundry list of early career choices; nursing, social work, teaching. Muriel was the empathetic one. Amelia found it hard to believe there were other ways to live. Or that anyone would willingly choose them. The irony is that Muriel was the one who ended up re-imagining her. Muriel was the one who insisted her sister was perfect, when she so evidently wasn't.

I think perfection is over-rated, yes, it's my birthday. I'm not perfect. Far from it. Balance, positives and negatives, those are what count most. And make life interesting.


  1. I wonder if the reason she avoided Muriel's home in Medford was that she was avoiding Albert. She doesn't seem to have liked him. (Ah, how much simpler would life be without in-laws? :))

  2. Yes, that could very well be. She seemed to have a great deal of contempt for him and for the choice Muriel made. Then again their mother didn't seem to care for G.P. much. Everybody in that family seemed to have strong opinions that they masked with pleasantries. It was the times I expect. Of course now everyone tells everyone everything. I wonder which is better? Hmm.

  3. If you're stuck with someone who bugs you, and if the things that bug you aren't fixable through discussion and negotiation, then it seems like maintenance of surface civility is the better course. Open hostility would be counter-productive.

  4. I'm with you on that one. It's the being stuck with part . . .