I’m sure you are familiar with the notion of old ladies wearing purple as Jenny Joseph penned in her poem, “Warning“. Or perhaps it is more clear to clear if you are familiar with the notion of people unfettering themselves of social constraints and doing just what they wish as they age. Personally, I figure most of us could use a few days of wearing purple in whatever fashion we think best suits us. But then, I’ve always found the bounds of society to chafe a bit too much.
Today we live in a world where all images of the “rich and famous” are made fantastical via the airbrush. And while we may shake our collective heads over the unfortunate airbrushing mishaps of missing hands or oddly bent appendages, we overlook the worst damage done in the name of artistry: we have forgotten how to appreciate the real within us.
I’ve noted in the past that nude beaches are not problematic for me. In fact, if every person on this planet magically appeared naked for a week, we would be far better off as a species. You see, when you have no way of hiding your flaws, you learn to stop looking for them in yourself and others.
Trust me, not many people look perfect naked. But they all can look perfectly naked.
And it is a lovely group of people who have attained such wisdom as to stop worrying about that kind of thing.
Three women come to mind as I think of old ladies wearing purple, or not as the case may be.
The first was my grandmother, Mildred LaPlant. She was a tiny little bird of a woman who made hard decisions over the course of her lifetime. But I do believe her underlying guide was always one of compassion and love. Its just that sometimes no decision feels right when you stand between rocks and harder places. I have a photograph of her somewhere. In it, she strikes a pose reminiscent of Ralph Maccio in The Flamingo Kid. She wears a floppy brimmed sun hat and white polyester pants and her face is creased by a big grin and bigger wrinkles.
She’s laughing in that photo and most of my limited memories of her are of laughter. I’m not sure how she found so many ways to laugh at life, but she did for us, her grandchildren. And she may have been worried about the size of her figure but I doubt more than she worried about the size of her bank account or the tumor that eventually killed her.
Another woman in my world was my husband’s grandmother, Nona Martin. The family typically starts any story about Nona with a description of her size…something along the lines that she was about as wide as she was tall. And while she could have used to lose some weight, she was also very, very short. The first time she hugged me, it felt like I was being enveloped by an elf-sized woman with a laugh the size of Texas. And if anything was bigger than Nona’s laugh, it was her presence. She was a old woman wearing purple regardless of the color of her outfit.
And yesterday I was reminded that a lovely lady, Harriet, is yet another “purple wearing” woman. She has that same way of grabbing you, physically and emotionally, to connect with you.
I love these role models in my life – love how they give no warning for their way of living life fully and on their terms.
How about we all embrace the notion of being young at heart, even if our bodies aren’t? And even more important, how about loving our bodies even if they are lumpy and scarred? How about we all eat more picnics and watch more sunsets? Drink the last of the orange juice just because it was so cold as it ran down your parched throat.
And most importantly, let’s all find what gives us joy and do more of that. Lots and lots more of that. Surround yourself with the people who make your smile and laugh and dance like you are still a kid who doesn’t care who is watching.
I’ll start, just in case you aren’t sure how to go about getting started. I’ll be wearing purple…it might be on the trim of my granny-panties, but I’ll be wearing purple.