Chapter 2, Rear View Mirror’s Reflection
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards*. Soren Kierkegaard*
After many men known, a life of adultery, 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, no?
Makeup’s art can’t conceal time’s claim on my mirror’s reflected face.
Who wants an old woman? Some preen, flutter about for male attention, and lewdly flirt. They attract only sympathy at best. I accept, old is old and don't play the old lady clown.
Instead, I bask in reality’s harsh glare. Why lie? I’ve spent a life doing so. I’m an inconspicuous passerby, a white hair silhouette among the throng, the little old lady (LOL). To the young, I’m irrelevant, not even evident. It’s as Marcus Cicero said two thousand years ago in his treatise of old age.
“The utmost misery of age I count it,
To feel that it is hateful to the young.
I wear my years with grace, dress for elderly respect but fashion's forsaken me. Female tattoos I abhor are in. Red lipstick and nail polish, I adore, fade out. Now, there's no gloves for age-spotted hands, hat for thin gray hair, lace screen 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 by 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 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 and afternoon tea. I 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. It’s a pleasure tinged with betrayal’s guilt. Candid aged introspection unveils the me, I never knew, not the woman I once thought.
A peregrinate journey to old age starts at birth. My trek began on June 8, 1950, in a Santa Clara Valley, California pear orchard. It, like the world I greeted at birth, is gone, pushed aside to create an alien world, Silicon Valley.
I grew up, stumbled into adulthood, and made decisions deemed unimportant which congealed into my life’s portrait, each experience a pearl. Strung together they’re my life's necklace, a lustrous one. Unlike most, however, there’s a secret strand, told in a diary, until now, unread, yet my lifelong friend. It’s a story of the secret strand’s struggle between animus and anima, the persona of my hidden self.
Like my husband, I was unfaithful to my diary due to lapses, omissions, and lies. By the fireplace's warmth, a candle's glow, and wine's comfort, 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’s confine to make me one, not two. So, I write, compelled. It’s an honest opus, told with hindsight’s naked truth. 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.
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 revision from the myth I thought was true.
My secret puppet shadow was selfish, hypocritical, narcissist, libidinous, manipulative, vindictive, even mean. To protect her, I lied to and betrayed those loved, even myself. I loved her most, hard to accept, more so to say but it’s true. I did love her and plead guilty to her indiscretions. While admitting guilt, I prevaricate. I admit guilt, not evilness.
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?
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, too frightful to face. Luckily, these what-ifs were never tested Still, tucked in my murky subconscious, they percolate up to interrupt sleep. God's mysterious ways left me untested and unpunished. I'll need to push luck again on judgment'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 meeting or kiss. I confess it all, the slow-motion, mind movie graphics. It’s their vivid, acid-etched memories, which changed me. To understand my story, you need to see it through my glass memory pane.
It starts the night I initially crossed the forbidden threshold, then relates 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 before pejorative judgment. 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 lapses, omissions, and 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 made up of remembered lichen patches, haphazardly adhered to our memory’s stone. With time the lichen slowly grows to become what we believe was as it fills the blanks on what’s forgotten.
What really happened?
Our minds distort experience as it occurs based on what we think “is”. Our memory banks then delete twist, and re-imagine things to fit the “is”. The “is” then becomes our metamorphized past. I try to be true but memory keeps shifting. It’s not just events that 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.
Einstein's theory, space, and time are interchangeable means the past is now as is the future and time's an illusion caused by our 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 whimsical potential universes? Is our movement through space a passage through whimsical doors we choose to open, each changing our universe? Does each direction move 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, how do we distinguish which it is?
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 in our universe micro world.
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 our future memory.
To understand my story, please comprehend, I write of a life lived
in a 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 now back then. Microwave ovens, personal computers, cell phones, the internet, and social media were not predicted. Instead, flying cars, house-cleaning robots, and trips to Mars were expected.
Polaroid, Fax, Beta, VHS, 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 bored 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 but gave no hint of who called. 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 in jukeboxes that glowed pastel colors and played three selections for a quarter.
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 there a machine sold flight insurance.
Banks were open from ten to three. 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, paperboys threw newspapers to it, the milkman delivered bottled milk on it, the mailman dropped letters in its slot and pesky salesmen rang its bell. Monday’s women washed and hung clothes to dry by wooden pins when backyard burning was taboo.
Boys played marbles, flew kites, made models, and read comic books. Girls played hopscotch, skipped rope, had tea parties, and pushed buggies with 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 an unknown game.
Children all got measles, polio haunted summer and moms marched for Easter Seal dimes. Doctors advertised cigarettes and you’d walk a mile for a Camel.
The service station hose bell dinged when you drove to the pump, a man rushed to be of service, he washed the windows, checked the oil, water, and air as he pumped your gas, and you paid in cash.
The station fixed cars on its hydraulic hoist sold only cigarettes and soda in vending machines and gave free maps and coupon stamps as boot. Each had a phone booth that demanded a dime but you could talk to the operator and call collect.
Gay meant cheerful, pot was a cooking utensil and porn wasn't a four-letter word, Catholic Mass was said in Latin, the Pope was Italian, Russians were the enemy, China was a forbidden red and Santa Clara Valley was an agricultural wonderland.
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 the 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 and my 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 unless we meet in mind alone.
Yes, I'm old. I’ looking backwards to understand yet living forward.
Author Notes: Prologue to longer tale know as Balinese Puppet Shadows where I woman wonders how she lived a life of adultery.