19 December 2007
Today I was sitting in a charming Upper East Side cafe, studying for the GRE (per usual) and drinking a latte, when this darling old woman sat at the table next to me. I should have known that she was someone special when she first walked in, because the staff dropped everything they were doing and ran over to give her hugs, kisses, and free hot chocolate, even though the cafe was swarming with the children from the school across the street who had just ended their school day. She was petite and I could tell that she was quite old, but her skin seemed oddly un-wrinked. I soon learned why everyone was so charmed by her-- and it wasn't just that she was charming!
Her name was Annie, and she was 85 years old and lived across the street from the cafe. She described herself as a "social, talkative person," and she told me that a considered the banquette to be the social portion of the cafe. She gives disclaimers whenever anyone asks if the seat next to her is taken-- "Yes, of course you can sit here, but you have to agree to let me talk to you and to tell me about yourself!" From a younger person-- specifically, from one of the many New York Guidos, this could be both imposing and obnoxious. But from Annie it was a welcome distraction. This was the sentence that sucked me in, when we were talking about my disusting nail-biting habit and how I'm trying to save money by not getting manicures: "Honey, you can't live your life by not doing things! When I was 72 I thought I was going to die so I traveled all around the world, and I'm still here today." She may also be better-off money-wise than I am, but just a hunch... But the point is that this extraordinary woman decided at age 72 that she wanted to live life to the fullest before she ran out of time. She told me about trips to India and Scotland, Norway and Monaco. And she also told me about how she fell in love when she was a nurse at Bellevue. He was a doctor there, and he always sat alone in the cafeteria, looking sad. Annie was sitting with her fellow nurses when she noticed him; she said to them, "Excuse me, girls, but I am going to make that lonely doctor smile!" They bet her that she couldn't. She did.
If someone can have that zest for life and that lack of regrets after 85 years, shouldn't I after twenty-some-odd years?
In a tangential matter, I saw Juno yesterday. In addition to being completely charmed by the movie itself, especially Ellen Page, I fell in love with the soundtrack. The quirky, deceptively simple lyrics by the Velvet Underground, Kimya Dawson, and The Moldy Peaches reminded me about the little things in life that provide so much joy-- slushies, orange tic-tacs, old school rock and roll, and that one person who "gets" you. In the words of Nico, "I'm sticking with you, 'cause I'm made out of glue."
Also, the lyrics of Anyone Else But You remind me of my fabulous freshman roommate (and Oxford partner-in-crime) Jenny. She used to play it on her computer on the nights when we would close our door to our bizarre freshman floor, light her scented candles, and be snarky :-) She's still one of the coolest people I've ever met-- here is a photo from one of our impromptu late-night photo shoots in England.