Yesterday I phoned a friend. I'd forgotten her birthday even though I bought the present in the summer, thinking that I'd finally do what she does -- pick something up when I see it, not wait until it's needed. But even with the paper bag sitting on a shelf, I forgot to wrap and mail it. (Why is wrapping a package so time consuming? So easy to forget about?)
What, as we joked, is time? It's hard to accept that I can't walk back into that tenement on 5th Street, next to the bodega, upstairs and into that large, roach infested, rent-controlled apartment where Krissy would still be a kid and I'd be scrabbling to raise her. Why is that gone when it's so clear in my mind?
How, as my friend said, could the 20th century be over? Why is it 2010? November? It moves fast and we are, as we both said, lucky to be here -- alive.
Though I have a couple of older women friends who have great prestige and financial assets, that wasn't expected of my generation. I keep forgetting that fact when I compare myself and come up wanting. Suggestions for career choices weren't easily available, the skills needed for advancement weren't easily discovered, the role models were men and there was a considerable stigma against women in various fields. In 1974, I was the first woman to teach in the photo department at MIT, a dubious distinction that I hardly was equipped to handle.
She and I have done well considering where we started in New York, the late sixties and early seventies. I relentlessly imagine that the childhood experiences that have haunted me is a reason for what I consider to be my short comings Her early life was more stable, but then again, she's always been more practical, detail oriented, an enormously hard worker. Whatever way you slice it, we've both taken similar paths and ended up in similar circumstances -- retired! Her university demanded far more committee work than mine did for studio faculty, so I always thought she worked far harder, longer hours, more reports. I imagine she enjoys retirement more than I do. My job wasn't nearly as stressful so I'm actually sorry that I retired. Maybe I worry more about money than she does. Or maybe we worry about different things.
We laughed a lot, answering the same questions we always ask each other. Have you made a big pot of soup yet? (I left my soup pot at a 4th of July gathering two years ago and still haven't retrieved it or bought one. Her's is pretty well worn down and she needs to buy a new one. It's been warm, so she hasn't started her winter food plan. I have, though mine is a crock pot full of sweet potatoes and butternut squash. She's never used a crock pot.) Are you doing your exercises? (She is. I'm not. ) How are the kids? (Blah and blah and blah.)
I was dry-running a pumpkin pie and she was cooking cranberries, the only time we'd both be caught in the kitchen, Thanksgiving. It was enormously comforting to have this long talk while my pie baked -- almost half an hour longer than the recipe called for. Is there something wrong with my stove? Was it because the pie crust was store bought and frozen? Should I have baked it first? I almost called her back to ask advice, since she's a better cook than I am. But I didn't.