There is a little old lady up on the main highway of town. She’s a sign spinner, and I honestly don’t know what she is selling. I am so distracted by her outfit and dance moves each time I drive by her that I always forget to look at the sign. This woman has ribbons in her hair. She has on a funky skirt and brightly colored shoes, and this lady has the moves. She is one funky grandma. This woman can move, and she isn’t even afraid of breaking a hip. Now, when I say she’s old, believe me, she is old. She is not 43, the version of “old” that my kids know. This woman is at least a grandma, if not a great grandma. I love her spirit, and just by standing there, she inspires me in two ways.
First, I’ve learned from her that I don’t ever want to be a sign spinner. I hope that I never am that broke or desperate for a job. That looks like the most hideous job to me. I am not outgoing, and I don’t want to wave at people who won’t wave back. I don’t want to stand on my feet all day, and I don’t want to act excited about holding a sign when I’m not.
More importantly, I want that woman’s spunk. It seems like so many people grow old and just sit down. They do nothing but read or sleep or knit. I don’t want to knit (although I do enjoy crocheting). I want to dance, and I want to wear ribbons in my hair. I don’t want my kids or grandkids to worry about waking me up when they come to visit me. Instead, I want them to have to track me down because I’m not at home. I want to be busy, and I want to be on the go.
Every time I see the woman with the sign, I am reminded of one of my mother’s favorite poems. She has it hanging in her guest bathroom, and she has had some version of it in our house as long for as I could remember. It says:
Warning – When I am an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple
By Jenny Joseph
When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple
With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin candles, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickles for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beer nuts and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.
What color are you going to wear when you are old? I’m thinking hot pink is the way to go, and I might just make my hair match my outfit. I might change it up and wear neon green and orange, and of course, my outfit will involve polka dots and stripes. I'm gonna be quite a sight, and I am going to enjoy every minute of it! -Al