Ever since I turned 50 a few years ago, I've been working on my QWP, my Quinquagenarian Writing Project. I keep a folder for each year with the drafts I've worked on. Looking back on this year's, as my birthday approaches, I've found (not at all to my surprise) that the numbers are down. In the months since my last birthday, many things have changed. My husband and I packed up the house where we'd lived for 20 years. We're in new jobs in a new school in a new country. It's a season of endings and beginnings, grieving and rejoicing, a season of learning a new language and culture, looking forward and also remembering. It's also a time of not writing a whole lot.
A lifetime ago, when I was 19, I tried on a yellow dress in a shop in Paris. I wrote a poem about that, and you can read it here. In the poem, I reflected on how a new dress can make you feel like a new person, and how our identities develop through the choices we make. And how I am somehow always the same old person.
This year, thinking again about some of those ideas, and looking to put at least one more piece in my QWP file before I start a new one after my birthday, I wrote this:
Duolingo prompts me again and again
To repeat the words
“Esta falda es demasiado cara,”
This skirt is too expensive.
I feel I am unlikely to say this.
If I find the skirt too expensive,
I will say nothing.
I will simply sidle out of the store,
hoping to remain unnoticed.
But maybe the Spanish-speaking me
is a little bolder.
Maybe she feels she must express her views,
on the appropriate price for a new skirt.
She’ll send back her meal
when it isn’t cooked to perfection.
She’ll speak up.
She’s not the sidling type.
She may even climb on a soapbox
on a South American street corner
and make speeches,
calling for justice for the downtrodden,
demanding reasonably priced skirts,
but also living wages for those who sew them.
I want to be that me,
so I repeat the words,
tentatively at first,
but soon with more assurance,
until my voice rings out:
es demasiado cara!
©Ruth Bowen Hersey
Here's to a new me on this year's birthday, or at least a few improvements in the same old me.