After a life of adultery, many men known, now I'm old, not in spirit, I’m 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 I knew more dead 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. Who wants an old woman?
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 another old lady clown.
I want to 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.
I still 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.
I 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, books, old 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 also a special pleasure too. I wallow among the patina of my memories. There, in my recollection midden, I live life anew, where candid aged introspection unveils the me I never knew. It’s a pleasure tinged, however, with betrayal’s guilt. I discover who I am. I’m not the woman once thought.
A journey to old age starts at birth. Mine began 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 as I stumbled into adulthood, I made decisions, deemed unimportant when made, which congealed into my portrait. Each experience was a pearl. Strung together it’s my life's necklace. It’s 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 I was wracked with guilt but 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 story, 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 do so, 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 risked even lied to myself to protect her. I loved her most. It’s hard to accept, more so to say but it’s true. I did love her. I, therefore, plead guilty to her indiscretions. While admitting guilt, I do prevaricate. I’m guilty but not evil, but was evil ever 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 a lover’s rush, an erotic high and became addicted. I sought again and again the initial euphoria of crossing the forbidden threshold. Like an addict, I lied to and endangered the love of those who loved me and those I loved for my addiction, over and over. That's my sin.
It's true, it’s better to be lucky than smart. My secret puppet shadow gambled again and again yet always won against unwise bets. She garnered a lifelong string of undeserved good luck. Does gambling with the devil make me evil? God’s mysterious ways left me unpunished in life and I’ll push my luck to judgement day.
What you read is a salacious tale. It’s told in lurid detail but to me it’s a philosophical saga. I try not to be pornographic and apologize when it offends. I don’t confess to an adulterer’s kiss. I’m confessing it all, the mind movie details.
My story starts the night I initially crossed the forbidden threshold then tells you of 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 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. 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 which becomes our perceived 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 it what occurred was predetermined or determined 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 with the laws of physics breaking down in our 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. Our past changes too, 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 in 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 in 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 and the internet were not predicted by the future experts. Instead they prophesized flying cars, house cleaning robots and trips to Mars.
Back then, roofs were adorned with aluminum antennas, TV’s were black and white, kids watched Howdy Doody with Buffalo Bob and the Mickey Mouse Club with Anette Fuchino. At night adults watched Lucy and Rickie sleep in separate beds. Father Knew Best, Ed Sullivan frowned at guests and Milton Berle bored the rest.
A black rotary phone sat squat on its little table, its loud ring startled the house.
Kodak’s bulb flashed in your face, for a moment you couldn’t see and the picture taken took a week to view.
Music played on a revolving disk, a needle vibrated in a vinyl grove. Juke boxes glowed pastel colors, their music played three hits for a quarter.
Cars were American, each year’s model an awaited event. Only airplanes had seat belts, all walked to the airport gate. There a machine sold flight insurance.
Banks were only 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.
You couldn’t burn trash Mondays when clothes, hung on lines by wooden pins, hung to dry. Bottled milk was delivered on the porch. There the mailman dropped letters in your mail slot. Pesky salesman rang the porch’s bell. The paper boy threw a boxed newspaper. The front door was left unlocked.
Boys played marbles, flew kites and read comic books. Girls skipped rope, played hop scotch and had baby dolls. Every kid tried a hula-hoop. The family played Monopoly, checkers, and cards. There were no videos or computer games.
Children got mumps and measles, polio haunted summer and moms marched for Easter Seal dimes. Doctors advertised cigarettes and you’d walk a mile for a Camel.
Service stations pumped cheap gas and had quarter cigarette and dime coke machines plus a glass enclosed phone booth.
They gave free maps and stamps as boot. The mechanic rushed to be of service when you drove over the hose bell, pumped the gas, cleaned the windows and then checked the car’s oil, water and air. He fixed your car on the station’s hydraulic hoist.
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 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 on the dining room table with dad 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 will think me an old crone.
Doesn't every young generation think the old so?
Author Notes: Prologue to longer tale know as Balinese Puppet Shadows