“If it was only the other way! If it was I who were to be always young, and the picture that were to grow old! For this--for this--I would give everything! Yes, there is nothing in the whole world I would not give!" - Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray
A summer day long, long ago, I drank from the fabled Fountain of Youth. I vaguely remember that afternoon, driving up to St. Augustine in the old green station wagon with dad, Sue, Michael and Andrew, climbing up and wandering around the ramparts, posing in front of the statue of the old Seminole, buying plastic swords in the gift shop, dad smiling for the camera with his head in the stocks and, yes indeed, patiently waiting in line to visit Ponce de Leon’s legendary Fountain. And of course I, basking in the aura, the mesmerizing glow of the golden rock, drank that tiny paper cup full of this magical elixir! I have always been a superstitious thing, even at that tender age, and clung on to that elusive promise of eternal youth. I knew even then the immeasurable value of youth and was ready to sell my soul, sip of the cup. Yet little did I realize, mere slip of an 8-year old that I was, how this one sip would change my life! But drink I did!
The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly,
and to lie about your age.
- Lucille Ball
“She’s not getting older, she’s getting better!” Or so the old saying goes, so the old ads wanted desperately to convince us. For years I played with fire, avoiding the question, allowing lies to slip out from between my lips. Changing the subject when the subject was broached, feigning ignorance, pretending that I just hadn’t heard. Was I afraid that merely uttering the number, any number, would age me in and of itself, that my hair would turn gray, my face shrivel, my shoulders hunch, my youth wither and fade? Oh, we can take the high road: color our hair, botox the face, plump up the lips, redo the bust, the whole nine yards, and run away from who or what we are, live behind the veil of illusion, pretend to be what we are not, but we cannot run away from who we are forever. Like the young man staring at the horrible portrait, it catches up one day.
My life has been a series of adventures, ups and downs, zigs and zags and I am sure that it has all left a mark, inside and out. I haven’t achieved half of what many people have achieved at this age and at times I think my life has been downright boring and uneventful, yet, as my brother reminded me to do every so often, I try to look at all I have done, all I have accomplished, the places I have seen, the people I have met and the friends that I have made. Everyone, I believe, lives their own singular adventure, and mine is as worthy as the next. In just the past handful of years, I have successfully turned what started out as a mere blogging adventure into a professional writing career. I teach writing at my own workshops and have spoken at conferences and events around the world. I have a damn fine marriage and home life, and even through tough times and tragedy, laughter still rings through our home.
Youth is a wonderful thing.
What a crime to waste it on children.
- George Bernard Shaw
As we get older we realize that there is most definitely something to be said for aging, adding up the years, getting, yes, older; lines may mark our face, we may have to work that much harder to keep the body looking good, we may have to swallow our pride and accept the fact that strangers no longer call us “Mademoiselle” but now say “Madame”. My sons, just barely out of their teens, may scoff at me and accuse me of no longer being in the loop, of not understanding how things work today, but I take great comfort in the fact that many of their worries are long behind me. I am old enough to understand that life has its ups and its downs: successes to be proud of even while often being overcome by self-doubt; wildly happy carefree days tempered by bouts of depression; the knowledge and freedom to make any decision, any life change I choose while tip-toeing over the abyss of possible disaster; the thrill of watching one’s own children grow into smart, handsome, healthy, confident young adults who have each found their passion, their road in life, enjoying their company as adults while struggling with the occasional rip-roaring argument. At this ripe old age, we are who we want to be, we know how to get up every morning and face the world, sure of what we have become over the long years.
Time is fleeting, life is ephemeral, youth is a game. As Dorian Gray stayed young, so his portrait aged, the image withered, the eyes grew sunken and evil, jealousy and hatred painted lines across the face. Youth, lovely youth stared back out at him from his mirror, yet inside he aged, the age of struggle, spite, meanness and fear. His youth was mere shadow, beauty seen between squinted eyes. Beauty, as they say, is in the eyes of the beholder and I am satisfied with the beauty inside, the youth that makes me laugh and cry when I feel the urge, the youth inside that allows me to be crazy with friends, silly with husband, not afraid to kiss in public or laugh out loud.
Growing older means being unafraid to bare my soul to you who read what I write, feeling the bond of old friends, and just doing what I love best: writing. And baking. Baking, like storytelling, is what gives me pleasure while bringing pleasure to others. Growing older means being able to bake what I want, when I want it, how I like it. And eating without guilt. I am actually beginning to like being grown up!
Old age ain’t no place for sissies.
- Bette Davis
Chocolate Espresso Layer Cake with Chocolate Mocha Mascarpone Buttercream
Espresso Chocolate Cake with Mocha Mascarpone Frosting
Don't miss out on the chance to join photographer Ilva Beretta and I at our first Plated Stories Workshop in Tuscany, Italy. We will be joining Tuscan Muse for an extraordinary 10-day adventure learning, exploring, discovering, traveling and eating. Be a part of this truly inspiring group of talented, passionate students! Check it out here....
* Parts of this blog post first appeared on January 29, 2010 when I had just turned 50, when I had hit the half-century mark. I decided on this momentous occasion to take the same piece and rewrite it.