Chapter 2, Rear View Mirror’s Reflection
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards*. Soren Kierkegaard*
After a life of adultery, many men known, I'm old, not in spirit, but calendar old.
Young, it was so short a time ago. Then, young, was forever.
Old, when did it become so? Was it when pop culture figures were unfamiliar, when more dead were known than alive, when none my age were present at an event?
Was it, when a seat was offered, a door opened, a senior discount given? Or, was it, when I preferred to sit than stand, stay home at night, take an afternoon nap, retire early to bed? Old, it never seemed to happen but suddenly did.
Born, I grew up, married, became a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother! Oh God, I’m a great-grandmother, it’s an old woman. Makeup’s art can’t conceal time’s claim on my mirror’s reflected face.
Some peers preen and prate, it’s the new fifty, and lewdly flirt. Old woman who flutter about for male attention attract sympathy at best. I don’t challenge their self-deception. I accept, old is old, no matter what I pretend. I don’t wish to be an old lady clown.
I bask in reality’s harsh glare. Why lie? I’ve spent a life doing so. Now I’m an inconspicuous passerby, a white hair shadow among the throng, the little old lady (LOL), that’s me. To the young, I’m not relevant, not even evident, no matter how I dress. Who wants an old woman?
I dress for respect, wear my years with grace but fashion’s forsaken me. Female tattoos I abhor are in while red lipstick and nail polish, I adore, fade out. Now there’s no gloves for age spotted hands, hat for thin gray hair, lace curtain to conceal a wrinkled face. Even a fur to ward off an old woman’s chill is taboo.
It matters not, what I do or think. My earth trek’s time consumed can’t be denied, old age is now my stage.
If there’s a second glance, it’s an old man. Our fleeting smiles sigh.
If young, would we, could we?
Instead we shuffle past and reminisce of when we did.
Yet elderly have their pleasures too. While time’s minute hand moves faster as the clock’s spring winds down, I’m no longer rushed. I enjoy dilatory rituals of morning coffee, afternoon tea, read books, watch movies and tend a garden, once too busy to do. There’s no need to rush. I’ll hear the Banshee’s wail soon enough.
There’s a special pleasure too. I wallow among the patina of memories. There, in my recollection midden, I live my life anew. There candid aged introspection, unveils the me, I never knew. It’s a pleasure tinged with betrayal’s guilt, as I re-discover who I am, not the woman once thought.
A journey to old age starts at birth. My trek began on June 8, 1950, in a Santa Clara Valley, California pear orchard. It, like world I greeted at birth, is gone, pushed aside to create an alien world, Silicon Valley.
Harried by change, I stumbled into adulthood, made decisions deemed unimportant which congealed into a life portrait. Each experience was a pearl. Strung together it’s my life's necklace, a lustrous one. Unlike most, however, there’s a secret strand, told in a diary, until now, never read, yet my lifelong friend.
Like my husband, I was unfaithful to it with lapses, omissions and lies. By the fireplace’s warmth, a candle’s glow and wine’s comfort, my companions, I re-write my life with aged insight.
As I do, I wonder how it became so; my life's string of events, the known me versus secret me, two lives in one.
How can one conceal a second life? Conceived in puberty, she was born crossing adultery’s threshold. Initially wracked with guilt, with time, guilt waned. I learned to love her. She was me, not all but an intricate part, the hidden me, who flitted to elicit pleasures with wings of guile. Only I knew her foibles, hidden from all but me.
We all have secrets, dark wishes, forbidden fantasies, convenient lies, selfish omissions but minor ones, forgotten as made. It's the big lie, the hidden life, the double agent act few know. That’s my secret puppet shadow, a lifelong lie. Like a spy, those who knew and trusted me, knew me not. They loved me while my secret puppet shadow betrayed them, over and over.
Secrets yearn to out. Bottled up a lifetime, she yearns to blurt forth, no demands release from her mind cellar confine to make me one, not two. So, I write, compelled. Entering a salacious memory, my mirror's aged reflection gives a Mona Lisa smile. I’m telling you the amours behind the smile, in graphic detail.
It’s an honest opus, told with hindsight’s naked truth. When I close a chapter, I return to who I’m now, LOL, unless I have another glass of wine. Then my amorous puppet shadow remains alive in my tipsy mind until sleep takes me.
Life's twists and turns have taught, what once I knew, were things untrue. Late at night, awake before sleep, unable to, the past drifts randomly before me. With the scrutiny of age’s honest reflection, my life’s story requires revisions.
My secret puppet shadow was selfish, hypocritical, narcissist, libidinous, manipulative, vindictive, even mean. To protect her, I lied to and betrayed those loved and to myself, too. I loved her most, hard to accept, more so to say but it’s true. I did love her and must plead guilty to her indiscretions. While admitting guilt, I prevaricate. I admit guilt, not evilness but escaped the horns of the dilemma without evil tested.
Would I have killed to evade illicit exposure? If affair pregnant would I have aborted an unborn child, confessed and destroyed the family loved, deceive my husband to raise one not his?
Evil what if’s, mine are too frightful to face. Tucked in my subconscious, they percolate up to interrupt sleep.
While I judge myself not evil, I crossed a forbidden threshold. There, I experienced an amorous rush, an erotic high and became addicted. I sought again and again the initial euphoria of passing through the taboo door. As an addict, I lied to and endangered the love of those who loved me and those I loved, over and over. Enslavement to a dependent craving, that's my sin.
It’s better to be lucky than smart. It's true. My secret puppet shadow gambled again and again yet always won against unwise bets. She garnered a lifelong string of undeserved good fortune. Does gambling with the devil make me evil? God’s mysterious ways left me unpunished. I’ll need to push luck again on my judgement’s day.
What you read is a salacious saga, told in lurid detail but to me, a philosophical memoir. I try not to be pornographic and apologize when it offends. I don’t confess to an adulterer’s kiss. I confess it all, the slow-motion, mind movie graphics. It’s their vivid, glass, acid etched memories, which changed me. To understand my story, you need to see it through the frosted glass which changed me.
It starts the night I initially crossed the forbidden threshold. It then relates back to my childhood, family, schooling, puberty, engagement and marriage to provide the wanton background props. It ends in old age’s acceptance of who I was and now am. In between, are stung serial acts of infidelity. Wait until you read the epilog to judge me. I may be more like you than you think.
Don't attempt to piece together my confession to discover who I am. I write in an indecipherable code for anonymity. My story tells the truth, as lived and related. The details provide my cloak’s cover. The dairy’s entry time span lapses, omissions, lies are edited as best as I can remember.
Are my revisions subject to future review? All history is. Each day lived, I failed to comprehend what was happening, who I was, what it meant. I amend my past with honest hindsight yet others remind me of shared events I can’t recollect. They in turn often fail to recall what I say we did. Our past is the crusty lichen memory, haphazardly adhered memory’s skeleton. Its blotches slowly grow to become what we believe was as they fill the blanks of what’s forgotten.
What really happened?
Our minds distort life experiences as they occur based on what we think “is”. Our memory banks then delete, twist and re-imagine things to fit that “is”. This “is” then becomes our perceived metamorphized past. I try to be true but memory keeps shifting. It’s not just events which change but my role in them. I write, edit, write again and edit again. It wasn’t really that way, or was it? Reality, it’s what’s believed back then, now or tomorrow? I don’t know, a conundrum but I try to tell truthfully what happened.
As I sort out life’s jumble, I try to decipher if what occurred was predetermined or random chance.
The ramification of Einstein’s theory, space and time are interchangeable, means the past is now as is the future. Time’s an illusion caused by movement in space, now being our current location.
Is movement through space after the big bang, therefore, predestined by physics? Is every experience a picture frame in God’s movie production, the reel capable of turning forward or backward? Is everything we do part of God’s scripted one-way road trip from birth to death? Is our life span an illusion of time as we move through space.
It appears so.
Or, are our lives an infinite array of possible universes? Is our movement through space a passage through variable doors we choose to open which changes our universe from one to another as we live? Does each change of direction by our decisions result in the eventual universe we inhabit from among an infinite number of possibilities?
It appears so.
A predetermined life or one of free will, which is it?
Take your pick. Our life’s either a movie show predetermined by God or an unrehearsed stage play with infinite alternatives. I suspect it’s a little of each where the laws of physics break down of our micro world in the universe.
They say two things are unavoidable, death and taxes. I add another, change. While it may be glacial or volcanic, it’s constant. Even our past changes, a rear-view mirage skewed in the fractured light of recollection as we edit our space/time movie. Past hues are adjusted to fit what we think now, not back then. What we think now, will change to fit the future.
To understand my story, please comprehend, I write of a life lived of a space/time gone, even though not so far or long ago. It was a different world, hard to imagine now. Events and characters, move against the candle’s flickering light of my memory and the diaries' opaque screen, a Balinese puppet shadow tale.
I couldn’t imagine here or now back there or then. Microwave ovens, personal computers, cell phones, the internet and social media were not predicted by the future experts. Instead they prophesized flying cars, house cleaning robots and trips to Mars. Polaroid, Fax, Beta, VHS videos, floppy disks, one-hour photos, transistor radios and the sexual revolution came and went without a hint in their predictions.
Back then, roofs were adorned with aluminum antennas, TV’s were black and white, kids watched Howdy Doody and the Mickey Mouse Club. At night adults watched Lucy and Rickie sleep in separate beds, Father Knew Best, Ed Sullivan frown at guests and Milton Berle bore the rest.
Instead of ubiquitous cell phones, a black rotary phone sat squat in its table in the center of the house. Its loud ring startled you to answer but gave no hint of who made it request. Used by all, arguments ensued when you talked too long and long distance was done at rare bequest.
Kodak’s bulb flashed in your face, for a moment you couldn’t see. Then the picture taken took a week to view.
Music played on platter disks as a needle vibrated in their vinyl groves. Away from home, juke boxes glowed pastel colors and played three selections for a quarter. In the car you pushed AM radio buttons to get a tune.
Cars were American, each year’s model an awaited event. Fins were in but Edsel was out. Studebaker, Packard, Hudson and Nash were auto choices for a few.
Only airplanes had seat belts, everyone walked to the gate and a machine sold flight insurance if the plane did crash.
Banks were open from ten to three, Monday to Friday and observed every holiday. Stores closed Sunday, mom served the week’s dinner best while everyone else except preachers took a rest.
The front porch door was left unlocked, paper boys threw newspapers at it, the milkman delivered bottled milk to it, the mailman dropped letters in its slot and pesky salesmen rang its bell. Women washed Mondays then hung clothes to dry by wooden pins, a day when burning was taboo.
Boys played marbles, flew kites, made models and read comic books. Girls skipped rope, played hop scotch, had tea parties and took care of dolls. Every kid tried a hula-hoop. The family played Monopoly, checkers, and cards. Baseball was big, football too, golf was played by a few but soccer was a foreigner’s game.
Children got mumps and measles, polio haunted summers and moms marched for Easter Seal dimes. Doctors advertised cigarettes and you’d walk a mile for a Camel.
When you drove over the service station hose a bell dinged and the mechanic rushed out to be of service. He pumped your gas, washed the windows checked the oil, water and air and you paid in cash. The station repaired cars on its hydraulic hoist, sold cigarettes and sodas in vending machines and gave free maps and stamps as boot. Each had a phone booth which demanded a dime but you could talk to the operator and call collect.
Gay meant cheerful, pot was for cooking, porn wasn’t a four-letter word, Catholic Mass was said in Latin, the Pope was Italian, Russians were the enemy, China was forbidden red and Santa Clara Valley was an agricultural wonder land.
A woman's place was at home, her work never done. A man’s place was at work, his job a life sentence. Dinner, was a family affair, cooked by mom, served in the dining room and dad sat at the head. The day’s events were discussed but mention of sex was taboo.
It was a different world though not so long ago, difficult now to comprehend.
Then the “pill” changed women. Computers, silicon wafers, integrated circuits and the internet changed the world. Santa Clara Valley suddenly became Silicon Valley.
Like any story, much is unsaid. You read only what I write. I tell how a young girl turned into a woman and committed a life of adultery. Not how she would today but back then, even if not so long ago. Only women my age will relate. Those young like every generation will think me an old crone.
I’m still living forward.
Author Notes: Prologue to longer tale know as Balinese Puppet Shadows