I had a truly unnerving experience on the bus a couple of days ago. I boarded the bus. The bus was full. I walked back to the middle of the bus where I could stand among the mothers and their push-chair babies. Adjacent to the filled open-space sat two elderly women in seats reserved for, according to the signage, “the elderly and those less able to stand.” I glanced at their lined, sallow faces framed with grey, beauty parlor curls and thought “World War II.”
No sooner had I placed them in time, then they both offered to give me their seat. I smiled (I hope that I smiled… that my smile was a smile and not a grimace) and said, “Thank you, but no.” Undeterred, the woman sitting next to the window, stood up, took me by my upper arm, and pivoted me into her seat saying, “I’m getting off at the next stop.”
Her companionable seatmate, smiled broadly. She did not pat me on the knee, but I imagined her doing so.
Days have passed and yet the incident haunts me. I rarely think of aging, and if the topic comes up (when I look in the mirror, for example, or wince at the hitch in my hip ) I rise above it. But this… This incident is going to linger.
I love living so close to Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park. I am there daily – soaking up the green – keeping to the path less traveled. Leaving the flat, I walk two blocks, cross Bayswater, pass Kensington Palace and angle over to the Round Pond where people take great pleasure in feeding the swans and the swans take great pleasure in fighting off the pigeons.
The swans are lovely to look at but aggressive. The discrepancy between their appearance and their personality intrigues me. Beneath the sinuous line of the swan’s neck, lies a coiled cobra-like intensity.
From the Round Pond, I cut east towards the Italian Gardens where the swans are both live and sculpted. Still stung by the bus incident, I note that the sculptures have eroded over time. Two sculpted women feed swans, and I note that the faces of the woman have been ravaged by time. Their features are blurred and indistinct. One woman has lost her nose. This walk, this recognition of the ravages of time, is not elevating my mood.
I continue on. Passing the statue of Peter Pan, I reflect that it has been a long time since I have read J.M. Barrie. Perhaps I should take a look when I return to the flat. I go to www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/16.
I don’t have to read far. The first paragraph says it all. Two-year-old Wendy is playing in the garden. She plucked a flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, “Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!” This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.
I think that I have to re-read Peter Pan in its entirety. Perhaps I’ll learn something useful.
Comment on “Two is the beginning of the end.” The end of what?
Write about your earliest childhood memory.
It is very possible that age two is the loss of innocence. Recall your first loss of innocence. Fictionalize that recollection.
If you want to feel useful but are not feeling especially creative, volunteer with the Guttenberg Project where volunteers type books that are out of copyright onto the Net.