When I am an old woman

Tuesday, I was a chaperone for a group of third graders at the zoo, and as we were leaving I met the woman I want to be when I am very old.  Racing to the rendezvous point by our deadline I encouraged the kids, “We’ve made it this far and no one has lost a leg.  Keep going…”  Well the hurrying stopped and the kids proceeded to pretend body parts were falling off.  They limped, dragged and moaned themselves to the exit of the zoo.  Thankfully we had three minutes and I could see the teachers, so I just laughed and kept encouraging them to move forward while the zombie leprosy overtook them.

Of course, while my kids were emulating disastrous disabilities we lurched past a group of really old people in wheelchairs.  Some had oxygen.  All had a helper pushing them.  One was staring at me and my kids.  Her red lipstick both matched the smart red jacket she was wearing and framed the beautiful smile on her face.  She clapped her hands in delight and then held her clasped hands to her chest watching the loud silly kids parade past her.  I don’t think one of them noticed her, but she noticed them, and we noticed each other.  As I walked past she smiled at me and gave me a little wave while she kept laughing.

The kids weren’t being insensitive to people who couldn’t walk, or who were missing body parts.  They were just playing and having fun.  The old lady could have been grouchy.  She could have wished that those loud kids would quiet down so she could enjoy the zoo sounds.  Other old ladies might have shook their heads at me for not making my group of six urchins behave.  But she didn’t.   She recognized the joy of the moment.  The fun that comes after six kids and one grown up have spent the day watching peacocks dance their mating dance, learning about assassin bugs, and picking which fish resembles their daddy.  The excitement of getting to ride back on the bus.  The pride of finishing their whole packet of zoo worksheets before lunch.  It was a great day for us and it was like that old lady had a crystal ball and could see the entire joy of the trip in that last single moment our group had together.

While we were doing our last count of the kids before boarding the bus, the old woman was wheeled past our giant group of 82 kids and chaperones, and still she was smiling.  Even as the kids did obnoxious kid things like play with toys they weren’t going to buy from the gift shop and try to trip each other.  Then she saw me and reached out, so I stepped forward and held her hand, just for a moment, and smiled at her.  As her dry paper skinned hand pulled out of mine I thought, I want to be like her when I grow up.

12 thoughts on “When I am an old woman

    1. Thank you for commenting! And you are right, things like this only happen when we pay attention. Proving your point, I read the story to my kiddo and she had no idea any of this happened other than, “I saw the people in the wheelchairs.”

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Amen to this! My son was a wiggly, inquisitive, wheel loving toddler. He envied every person who “got” to ride in a wheel-chair, electric cart, etc. When I’m in one, I’m going to let small children ride with me and engage every one who will in conversation. They have so many questions and a smiling face means the world! Thanks for sharing this – and thanks for being one to acknowledge a friendly face ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Okay, I love this. I want to let wheel loving kids sit in my wheelchair too.

      Once, I had an amazing conversation with this guy in a motorized wheelchair at an art festival. He could drive, but his specialized van cost $80k purchased used. It had this motorized lift for his wheelchair and it was always breaking down and he had a hard time finding people who could fix it. When we were done chatting he thanked me for talking to him. He said people often just ignored him, and that made me sad.

      That said, at a zoo and an art festival I’ll stop to talk, but I’d probably ignore him at the grocery store, because I’m “busy.” Kinda crappy, huh? Maybe when I’m old I’ll run over toddlers at the grocery store trying to get to the yogurt….

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    1. Do you ever talk to her? There was an old lady in my neighborhood years ago who was always out in her garden. I watched each year as her garden grew weedier and she couldn’t keep up. I always thought about talking to her and asking if she wanted help, but didn’t. Then one day she was gone, and now a capable young couple lives there, but they don’t garden. All that’s left of her work are occasional bulbs that bloom. It makes me sad, and wish I would have engaged with her.

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      1. No I don’t. I see her in the park, walking her dog, dressed superbly and with make up on, hair done, etc… I have no idea where she lives exactly. I will try to talk to her next time, especially if I’m with my daughter as she loves dogs.

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    1. Those dopey kids were having so much fun. It would have been a shame if they were yelled at… (How much fun would it be to play zombie at the zoo? brains….elephant brains….must eat….)

      Liked by 1 person

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