Aunt Rita in younger days
Here I sit in my easy chair, feet propped up, coffee at hand, waiting for daybreak to see if the icy rain will switch to cold winter rain so I can drive to the gym. Failing that, I will ride my indoor bike for as long as I can.
I hadn’t planned a post today, but an obituary for one of the actors in the film, Gone With the Wind reminded me of my friend Alice and her obsession with the book. No the obit wasn’t for Olivia de Haviland, Leslie Howard, Vivian Leigh or Lawrence Olivier. They died long ago. The actor in question had played one of Miss Scarlett’s girl friends. In her nineties, she was from Savannah and lived in a nursing home in South Carolina. Apparently, this film was the high point of her life and career.
I never read the book and have only seen bits of the movie at different times, so I am no big fan of Scarlett and her era, unlike many of my friends over the years.
I have written elsewhere that I held many jobs to help pay for my undergraduate education: 1/ assisting the head librarian in the campus library, 2/ as a TA for one of my sociology professors, and 3/ a part-time job nights at Montgomery Wards. I did this while caring for three children…I was a single parent.
One afternoon as I shelved returned books in the library, I noticed my coworker Alice spent many hours sitting at the checkout desk reading GWTW from cover to cover. Weeks later, when she finished the enormous book, she gave me a sad look, and said, “I feel like I’ve lost a friend.”
“Have you ever spent so much time with a book you feel lost when it’s finished?” she asked. I probably looked at her in a sympathetic way, but I barely had time for class assignments, let alone fiction.
In the years since, my undergraduate days, with the exception of the odd mystery, I’ve read mostly 400+ page books (some over 1,000 pages). I can honestly say few of them have left me feeling bereft. Unless they are biographies, in most histories individual lives are swept along like dust particles. In a really long biography, you can hardly wait for the protagonist to die. Or, as a weary Mr. Bennett, listening to the tedious recounting of a dance, says of Mr. Bingly who danced the night away with Mary, “Would he had sprained his ankle in the first dance.”
I am back from the gym, where I heard a fat guy in the next lane, referring to my classmates say to the lifeguard, “I bet they won’t have class this morning.” To which the life guard replied, “Oh they will, this is a tough lot.” All of us 65+ gals showed up.
Karen (77 years old) was there early doing her laps. “You’ve signed up for the Cheaspeake Bay Swim (a four-mile swim to the Bay Bridge and back held every spring).” “Yes I have” she said. She reminds me of Aunt Rita, riding her bike 80 miles on her 80th birthday. Where do these old gals get their stamina?