Dentures-R-Us

Beth Conny of WriteDirections writes about growing older (as opposed to getting old).So, there I am, roaming the exhibit hall of the BlogHer conference, my complimentary canvass bag overflowing with …

Actually, I don’t know what half the stuff is, other than it’s free. Exhibitors with hopeful faces keep handing me magnets, bookmarks, letter openers that double as flashlights; Barbie-sized samples of organic triple-berry, low-fat, reduced sugar, lactose/glucose/preservative-free yoghurt in day-glow colors. And, of course, there are the pens. Pens, pens, pens. By the end of the conference, I’ll have more pens than Staples.

But then — could it be? — something I actually need! Post-its!

I love Post-its. Can’t live without them. I stick them everywhere: my bathroom mirror, fridge, steering wheel, forehead. I shudder to think of the appointments I’d miss, the bills I’d forget to pay, the coupons I’d let expire were stickies not part of my everyday life. Whoever invented them should be awarded a Nobel prize.

Understandably then, I elbow my way to the crowded exhibit table and scoop up a handful of stickies. This is the high-point of the conference. Nirvana.

Flash forward.

I dump my bag of conference freebies onto the couch and sort through them the way I once sorted through Halloween candy: stuff I’ll keep, stuff I’ll pawn off on others. The stickies I will hoard. But wait, what’s this? There’s writing on the pads. It’s a question:

How do you feel about getting old?

What the hell does that mean? Is this a joke? Obviously, the person who wrote this will never win a Nobel Prize. He/she is not just dumb, but insensitive. I am not getting old; I’m growing older.

Getting and growing have different connotations. Getting old connotes an inevitable loss of mobility and memory; powerlessness. “Growing older” hints at choice. We may grow older, but we don’t have to get old. We retain our power. Read more

Jenna’s “Out!” campaign

Beth Mende Conny, founder of WriteDirections.com, writes about her daughter, Jenna Conny, as she prepares to move into her own apartment.Note: I wrote this piece in August about Jenna, my youngest, a few weeks before she moved into her own apartment. 

Near tears. I would be in tears, but Jenna, my youngest, will be awake soon, and little girls don’t like to see mommies cry, it throws them off, scares them. But mommies do cry, and though she is still my little girl, she’s soon to be 19.

She’s home for the summer and conducting her own “Out!” campaign. She’s excavating closets and drawers and clearing shelves of knick-knacks. Gone are the posters of musicians she wouldn’t dare admit she once liked.

This laundry basket is one of many she has filled with valuables that have lost their value to her. But for me, each tells a story, is a phase, a broad swath of life that was her childhood.

She doesn’t remember that silly little purple pillow she had to have, the wreaths of beads that made her feel like a grownup. The hair dryer and straightener that were as essential to her as her high school calculator. The stuffed animals we bought for various graduations, tags still on. She has grown beyond the memories; she’s entitled to this, her passage.

Oh, but there’s her starry blue bathrobe, so soft to the touch. I remember wrapping it in Christmas paper and thinking, “She’s going to love this.” And she did. And I have photos to prove it. On the couch, at the table, on the floor — there she is, wrapped in stars and puffy clouds. It is the only thing in this basket she has, literally, outgrown.

And now I’m crying because I remember how it draped over my knees when she curled into my lap. I remember wrapping my arms around her waist as I pulled her to me, into me. This is one memory I will not give away. This one belongs to me.