Friday, September 25, 2009


No nail polish, 7 pizzas later and a good, good night later, here I am again. Back to Christine. She glided in the room even though she had so many bags on her. She was tall, with a big-boned build. Before she even sat down, she started emptying her bags. "I brought all these things to help me remember. Look." She showed me a printout of research she had done about the year of her birth, 1939. The pages were wrinkly and brown from a dried-out spill. She pulled out a velvet navy photo album with gold trim. "This is me in the 60's. This is me again. I used to tutor for kids. 15 hours a week. That's what was called for. I loved working with kids one-on-one. You don't see me in the pictures with them because I was behind the camera. This is me in Christmas. This is probably the 70's. This is everyone at Christmas. I like taking pictures of everyone at Christmas..." Maybe thirty pages and this-is-me's later, she interrupted herself. She took out the class flier (the flier in all its neon green glory that the senior center has made to announce this writing workshop) and asked me in all sincerity, "What was your birthyear? Because I can do research for you on your birthyear too. Then she asked what the birthday and month were too, and wrote everything next to my name on the class flier. By this point the photo album was covered by other things on the table, but this pink hardcovered book was visible on top of this pile. "Ah, look." She flipped through the pages. It was one of those books that help you find out about yourself. She didn't remember when she had filled out the book. She had picked words from a list that best described her personality. She had picked her favorite fashion model. She had filled out blanks about her favorite clothes on the page "Mall Madness". She told me she could never trade clothes with her friends because she was too much bigger than everyone else. And then she flipped to the back of the book and ripped a page from another little notebook she had sitting on the table. On the page, she wrote down the Library of Congress Catalog Card number of the pink hardcovered book, in case I wanted to ask everyone in the class to get a copy to fill out. "Kodak published this book. If you write Kodak," she said, "they can tell you if they still carry the book." And then there was that little notebook, the one that she had just ripped a page from. That was the gold mine. It was thin and vertical. The length of an outstretched palm with long fingers. "This is where I write my poetry." Her poems were hilarious. Absolutely hilarious. She read me several. One is called "When You Get Old". It is this giant list of what you should and shouldn't do when you get old, including not to go on shopping sprees. (Because you are weak in the knees!) So, she promised me, for the purpose of this blog, that she was going to expand the list and handwrite it neatly so I can get it typed up and we can read it online in a few weeks. "But wait", she asked me, "what do you think about the title? Should it be 'when you get old' or 'when we get old'?" That question made me smile. When we get old, that was what Christine and I decided on.