We’ve come a long way


By Betty J. Slade | PREVIEW Columnist

Our Monday morning writing group planned a fun day to get to know each other. Everyone brought a picture of themselves, a memory of their younger days and told something about themselves.

Somehow, it escaped us that we actually had full, productive lives before we began the occupation of writing. As each one shared their photos and stories, we saw another side of what made them who they have become. There are stories still buried deep within them. We need another fun day.

Over the nine years we’ve been together, we’ve all changed. We started full of spunk, gusto and a lot of fight. Seven of us have entered into the big 80. We’ve slowed down, but the ideas and the push to write are stronger than ever. Now we want to record our last words in memoirs, novels and letters to our children.

Sixteen writers sat in a circle that morning. One of the writers brought a picture of herself that could’ve come out of an ad from a 1960 magazine. In white heels and hose, calf-length full skirt and apron, she stood in her 1960s kitchen holding a sheet of cookies.

The women identified with that time, even the younger ones. We’d come home from church and go right to the kitchen. A roast and potatoes cooking in the slow cooker, we’d bring out our good china and feed our hungry families and, many times, guests from church. The lines have blurred over time; women are working out in the marketplace and go to a nice restaurant for Sunday dinner.

But we lived in a time when women stayed home, took care of their houses and raised their babies. The husband’s job was to bring home the bacon.

We laughed at how it used to be and how far we have come. I’ve thrown away those Sunday school dresses, pantyhose and high heels. Do women even own or wear an apron? And cookies — who bakes cookies today? I’ve got my Sweet Al on a two-meal plan a day, breakfast, a late lunch and a protein drink. I’m a writer who wants to write. I don’t want to cook or clean.

As we went around the circle, the next photo brought out at our fun day was from an 87-year-old who writes children’s stories and novels. 

She said, “Oh I wished I would have brought my picture in my cheerleading uniform from high school.”

Mind you, at 87, she is tall and lanky, still full of life. I looked at her and said, “Do you still fit in your cheerleading uniform from high school?”

“Yes, I do. I could’ve worn it and done a cheer for everyone.”

Who in the world still fits in their high school clothes? Apparently, she does.

“You must wear it to one of our special events. And definitely be part of our entertainment.”

Another writer explained about the picture she brought of her granddad in khaki pants. She said, “I’m in love with khaki pants. I have fond memories of staying with my grandparents. I was so close with my granddad that when I saw a man wearing khaki pants, I fell in love with him on the spot. He reminded me of my granddad and I married him.”

One of the writers told of her love for horses. When she was 5 years old, she was sitting on a motorized horse in front of a dime store. Her life went in that direction. Today, she owns a store in town and has acquired many stories from her customers. Now she writes her customers’ stories.

My Sweet Al carried my picture for 65 years in his billfold. When I asked him to let me take it to the group, he couldn’t find it. He had replaced it with his dog’s picture, Whiskey. Well, my story went out the window. It was a great picture and would’ve made a good story. 

A wedding picture from 30 years ago brought up a story of a double wedding. Two local couples wed and everything went wrong for the one couple who didn’t make it. The writer’s marriage is still as sweet as the day she and her husband met.

The men had their stories, too. I’ll save them for another article. That morning, we laughed at ourselves and each other. Memories flowed. There are still plenty of stories in us to write. 

Final brushstroke: How can anyone dismiss older people? They carry a world of stories in the core of their existence. If we want to see how life is lived, we must go below the wrinkled skin, flabby arms, limps and canes, and 30 extra pounds to catch a glimpse of the worth of people who have lived and have come a long way, baby.

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