Thursday, October 18, 2012

ADVANCED IDENTITY

One of my favorite blogs is http://advancedstyle.blogspot.com/  which showcases various women of advanced age for their exuberant fashion sense. And yet when it comes to admirable women of advanced age, I don't need to look much further than my own mother and mother-in-law.

"Tough act to follow, huh?" asked our friend Kathleen when Ben and I were telling her about their recent visit.  One had flown from California, while the other had taken the train from Boston. The plan was that we would travel down to Richmond for their grandson's performance in Noises Off at Virginia Commonwealth University.

My mother Judy, an actress and director, is now in her eighties. She began her career in London, but has directed countless performances in Boston and its environs, and now works with the Ross Valley Players near Sausalito, California.  My mother in law Alice is also a seasoned professional actress, well known in the Boston theater scene. She made her Broadway debut a few years back in a production of Present Laughter.  The two are long time and very good friends.  In fact Ben often jokes that ours was an arranged marriage - for our mothers were friends long before we met and fell in love, and  even that was on the stage - in a production of As You Like It. I was playing Rosalind, and Ben  Orlando.

What a joy to have these women sitting on our terrace gossiping about their Boston theatre days, sharing impressions of recent productions - and most of all, to accompany them down to Richmond to see their grandson Elliot who is himself a chip of the theatrical block - now studying drama at the School for the Arts.

Our mothers are women not so much of advanced style, as of advanced identity. They have grown richer and more beautiful as they've aged.  Their wisdom, their stamina, their passion for what they love and believe in, their sorrows and their joys, shines through on their faces.

I don't think they stopped chatting from dawn until dusk.  And never was there a more enthusiastic cheering section in a young actor's career- as theirs for Elliot.  "He has such presence," my mother said. "The way he stands!  I can't tell you how many professional actors I've had to coach in how to stand."   Alice lit up a cigarette. "What they will have learned about timing from doing this production is absolutely invaluable," she said.

Before the show Elliot took us out for an authentic Richmond BBQ.


Then we drove to Hollywood Graveyard, mostly for its view of the river, but also to see and the graves of Presidents Monroe and Tyler. 


A tough act to follow? When Kathleen made her comment I said I didn't think of it like that. I was doing my own thing. Nevertheless these amazing women are a living example of how to age well.  It seems to come down to integrity of spirit - a confidence that grows up from the soles of their feet, in being fully themselves. It's less about style than about their generous open spirits, the idea of embracing growth, even when you're 80 - and blossoming into advanced identity.

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