“I’m so scared. Wonder if no one likes me?” Her big brown eyes sparkled with tears.
Trying to hide a chuckle, I squeezed her hand. “So what if they don’t? Lot’s of people don’t like me, but I could care less. You know not everyone is going to like you. That’s way everyone has their own personality. If we were all the same it would be a pretty boring world, right?”
“I know, but still the fears there.”
“It’s normal to feel that way. Human nature hates change, and this is a huge step for you. Did you have any problems getting here?”
“No traffic was light, Thank God. I hate the interstate, all those big trucks, and crazy drivers. Thanks for meeting me, it means a lot.” She smiled as she gave my hand a squeeze.
“Hey, you know all you have to do is call. To be honest, I am glad to share this day with you. My first time was scary too. On that day I couldn’t breath, hadn’t slept the night before, and the gnawing in my stomach felt like some huge rat or something. But that was a year ago. I survived, and so can you.”
With a sigh, she wigged in the tattered seat. “Yeah, but you were younger than me. Good grief, I am fifty-years old, and look seventy. Those young people will probably laugh me out of here. I should have done this thirty years ago, then it would have been easier.”
“Not necessarily. At twenty-five, still young to some folks, I still have a hard time doing something different. You know age is just a number don’t you.”
Her eyes drilled into mine. “What do you mean just a number? It is the most important number in the world. Heck, when you’re young you can do anything, once you’re old, well it’s another story.”
After rolling down the window, I relined back in my seat to digest her words. The crisp tantalizing smell of fall wafted through the window to tease me. My nostrils flared as I savored the warm smell of apples and late blooming flowers that heralded autumns approach.
“Let me ask you something.” I turned to her.
“What’s that?” Her lips trembled slightly.
“If no one told you how old you were, then how old would you be?”
“What?” One delicately arched black brow shot up.
The look on her face amused me. Poignantly, I drank in the sight of her prominent cheekbones, the delicate curve of her jaw, and the flashing eyes. Black hair, with just a touch of silver, framed her sculptured face, providing the perfect backdrop for her almost flawless features. At that instant, her Native American heritage was more evident than ever. Always busy, I had never taken the time to notice just how beautiful she actually was.
“Think about it. If no one ever told you what year you were born, then how old would you be?”
“Gosh, I guess it would depend on how I felt on the day you asked. And let me tell you, some days I feel pretty darned old.” Her lilting laugh floated like music to my ears.
“What I am trying to get at is simple. Age is nothing more than a state of mind. You’re as old as you feel, does that make sense?”
“I guess so, but today I feel about one-hundred and fifty, so I guess that makes me ancient, an antique to those flea market people. Wonder if I am worth any money?”
Laughter escaped my lips her dry sense of humor always did that. “Well, tomorrow you may feel ten again. Jump out of bed, get dressed, and skip off for a day of fun.”
“Yeah right, as if this old body could skip anymore. Listen it’s about time for me to go in. I know I’ve already said it, but thank you. It really does mean a lot.” Her lips curled into a smile, as a flash of excitement built in her eyes.
I watched her apply a fresh coat of rose pink to her lips, pat a few stray hairs into place, and pop apiece of gum into her mouth. Then in unison, we exited the old green Ford Taurus, walked up the sidewalk, and came to a stop beneath a huge sign.
“It looks so big, hope I don’t get lost in there.” Fear flashed in her eyes.
“You will do just fine.” I gave her arm a gentle squeeze. “Will you call me later and let me know how it went?”
“Yeah,” she took a deep breath, and pulled me close. ‘Thanks again, and drive safe.”
“I will.” My arms wrapped around her to return the hug. “Listen, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish once you set your mind to it.”
“Those words sound familiar.” Her laugh sounded young, almost carefree. Then in a flash, she disappeared inside the cavernous building.
Her parting words brought a smile to my lips. The encouraging words I had offered were her own. Today I felt as if I had wiped clean some of the debts I owed. Like an anxious parent, I hovered outside, my feet nervously kicking at pebbles lying on the old cracked sidewalk. I was so proud, and yet for a moment felt a smidgeon of fear. It was hard to turn and leave, a part of me wanted to follow, perhaps, as a companion. Once I reached my ancient car, the fear was gone. Pride and joy replaced it, as the magnitude of today hit home. The woman I had just left had so many layers. She was so much to so many people, a wife, a mother, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a spiritual guide, and now in this new season of her life she had finally taken steps to do something for herself. At fifty, my Mom had just become a College Freshman.