Personal Essay: Smoking in Stretch Pants

Several summers ago, my neighbor and I dragged our kids to a summer adventure. We followed the then new, hip trend of taking our kids to a farm stay. Have you heard of the idea? Many farms are opening their doors like a B&B. They make much needed added income and we urbanites get to show our fancy know-it-all kids what real life is like … getting up at the crack of dawn, milking the cows, gathering chicken eggs for breakfast, repairing the broken tractor, and on and on. (Honestly, I just like to go for the fresh air, the sleep, the simplicity of being in the country with lots for the kids to do and little I have to do.)

But then, there is Ms. Sherry’s cooking. Damn, that woman can cook. I can taste her pancakes and homemade afternoon cookies now. All you can eat farm breakfast and dinners come with the package vacation deal. (When are we going back, Patti?) Every meal is spent around the table as delicious surprises flow from the kitchen. Family life at its best.

The chair at the end of the table is always saved for Grandma. This particular farm in upstate New York has been in the family for three generations. When it was passed down for operation to Ms. Sherry and Farmer Frank, Grandma got smart and moved to Florida. But then, of course, she got smarter and moved back home. At the ripe old age of 95, she is as active as they come. Her mind is sharp. She walks without assistance. She plays Scrabble every night with her daughter-in-law. And after every meal, you will find her on the front porch in a white rocking chair smoking her cigarette.

Patti and I decided that Grandma is our hero. We want to be 95 years-old, playing Scrabble and smoking cigarettes. Her example became a running joke between us. At what age can we stop being so disciplined and well-behaved? When can we start smoking and even better, when can we just buy stretch pants and say to hell with it … pass me that second helping of Ms. Sherry’s mouth-watering pancakes. We decided the benchmark is 80. No, let’s make it 70. No, screw it, we are shooting for 60.

Patti was over visiting the other day. I rearranged my dining room and for the first time, she remarked that I have a beautiful dining room table. She had never noticed it before because I cover it with a table pad. You know, I have to protect it for the future. For someday. She asked me at what point I planned on showing off this antique Art Deco table. Immediately, our farm jokes of smoking and stretch pants came to mind.

When does this wistful someday arrive? At what point, do I embrace letting go and living in the moment, allowing myself as much joy as I can find? When can I push back the voices in my head that tell me tomorrow I will get to that? Or soon I will embrace all the wishes that I have been delaying for who-knows-what-reason on God-knows-when timeframe. Today is what I got. It is not necessarily dictated by yesterday. And I will miss it if I focus on tomorrow.

Knowing me, I highly doubt that anytime soon I will be sitting around my shiny table in stretch pants, smoking a cigarette, having just finished a piece of chocolate pie on the good china. But the idea of it pushes me to rethink my days and more importantly, my moments. For it is the moments that add up to make a lifetime. And I want to fill this life I have been given with all I can hold. You fill it too, my friends. To the brim. And perhaps one day we will meet on the front porch, pushing 100, with a lite cigarette in our hands saying to each other, what took us so long?

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