Margie Hord

Expat by Default

Month: August 2019

Wrinkle Free? That’s Not Me!

By Ravi Patel (Unsplash)

Once, when I was in my 40’s, a photographer took my picture for a passport, and upon seeing the results, I hardly recognized that person! Before the days of Photoshop, he had smoothed out my face to remove the expression lines. My reaction: That’s not me!

We don’t usually love our wrinkles, and since then I’ve collected a few more… or the same ones have deepened. Yet, that experience made me realize that at the same time, like our often-under-cover gray hairs, they are badges we’ve earned. They tell a story. They speak of the wear and tear of wind and sun, but also of sorrows, fears, and laughter. They let others know we represent the voice of experience, for what it’s worth, and can draw a degree of respect.

Have you ever seen those “well-ironed”, tightly stretched faces in a magazine or a mall? It may be a movie star or other well-heeled woman we’ve seen, that suddenly seemed rather unreal. Those images bely the signs of time’s passing in the crinkles and sags in their hands. Somehow they seem alien, hardly human. How can we identify with one who denies her years and thus, to some extent, her humanity?

Despite my rant, I do confess that, like many women, I am no stranger to wrinkle creams and such. Softening those lines is no sin, to be sure, but it’s a thin line that separates self-care from vanity.

A middle-aged married friend was travelling on her own and far from home in an area enjoyed by tourists. Feeling carefree, she suddenly realized that part of her enjoyment was that no men were ogling her, flirting or making her uncomfortable, as when she was younger. The signs of age protected her, as it were, from undesirable approaches, perhaps more than a wedding ring (not always visible).

Not worrying so much about how others perceive us is freeing. Accepting that my face and body are not eternally young takes time, but once I crossed that hurdle, it was liberating.

Once I got a laugh out of the fact that my face clearly shows my age. Having donned a sequined T-shirt and skinny jeans tucked into high boots, I hopped up the steps of a city bus and showed the driver my senior card, offering him my reduced fare. He glanced at my face, confirmed that I was indeed a senior, and said no more.

Much as we women love to enhance our attractiveness, as the years go by we are often tempted to despair at the wilting of the flower of youth. At the same time, we grow to appreciate more than ever the reality that inner beauty is the only one that lasts and even improves…the only one that truly matters! It is undoubtedly reflected on the outside as well, with a smile, a kind look, a peaceful demeanor.

Proverbs 31:30 says, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Thanks, King Lemuel, for commending us for more than our outer looks!

 

P.S. Many of you know that the woman in the pic isn’t me!

Gone but Still Present

brown wooden rocking chair inside dark room

Photo by Anthony Delanoix (Unsplash)

You’ve lost a loved one: a parent, a spouse, a child. A huge hole seems to have been gouged out in your heart. Their absence is overwhelming at times. The empty spot at the table or in the bed… Special holidays will never be the same again; they tend to bring memories flooding in more than ever, and the hole is bigger than ever.

Yet… those people live on in our memories! Our lives have been enriched by theirs. Reminders pop up unexpectedly, constantly.

Recently I returned to the home where my parents lived for decades. Its new owner, my sister, has left her own imprint on it, and yet there is still so much of Mum and Dad that endears them to me.

person opening photo album displaying grayscale photos

Photo by Laura Fuhrman (Unsplash)

Going over albums of photographs galore is a bittersweet experience. They cover decades of achievements and family times. Pics of Air Force times in Great Britain, others of glowing newlyweds or proud graduates, a bushwhacking biologist, babes in arms, a beaming Mum greeting the President of Peru, and so much more.

On occasions classical music wafts from the kitchen, in homage to my Mum.

As we scrub the window screens before putting them in for the summer, I recall how as kids we used to sing songs we learned from Mum to pass the time away, sometimes while one washed dishes and another dried them. My sister pulls one out from the recesses of her memory–White Coral Bells, which I may not have heard since childhood– and the words come back as I join her!

pile of spinach

Photo: Monika Grabkovska (Unsplash)

In a recipe book, a note in our mother’s handwriting reminds me where I might find an alternative concoction when I decide to bake something with fresh rhubarb.

selective focus photo of shovel on sand

Photo: Markus Spiske (Unsplash)

The gardens are no exception to the rule. We owe the yumminess of rhubarb and berry plants outside to Dad, as well as the rich colors of flowering shrubs and perennials. My sister’s painstaking work on the garden he toiled over for so many hours is a reflection, too, of his labor of love. The special touch of fresh blossoms in some nooks of the old home reminds me that his spirit lives on.

Fine furniture and old clocks tell stories of my father as well; some he designed himself.

person wearing pink crew-neck shirt with hand clasped together

Photo: Ruben Hutabarat (Unsplash)

Memories aren’t always triggered by that which we see, hear, or touch. Occasionally, my family members will use one of “Dad’s prayers” for grace at mealtime, concise and simple. These are imprinted in the mind and heart.

Even away from the old home, there are moments which remind me of my heritage. A woman who has never met me before tells me, “You look like your Mum!”

Not all that comes to mind is warm and fuzzy. There’s the room where Dad suffered for so long, and his spidery signature barely recognizable once his sight failed him.

forest with fogs

Photo: Stanislava Stanci (Unsplash)

The details of our stories will be different, but surely there is a common thread: Gone but still present, are those loved ones we recall. More than a memory, they remain in our physical resemblance, the objects they left, the habits they instilled, the songs and stories, the recipes and prayers, and even the values that set us on our way.

Indeed, they are knit into our DNA.

© 2019 Margie Hord

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