Yesterday’s Wine is a Willie Nelson song. It’s no secret that Willie is a musical touchstone for me. Always has been and the line from the song, ‘we’re ageing with time, like yesterday’s wine’ is true enough, but only if we’re lucky. Count me lucky.
I don’t really know where this little essay is going, but I feel compelled to share it.
I’ve lived in all—or parts—of ten decades
When I realized that, it came to wake me pretty quick of a morning, looking back at myself in the shaving mirror. There’s a perspective that comes from finally understanding that everything’s connected in this tiny hunk of space we occupy on our planet. Connection brings tears to my eyes in the damnedest of circumstances.
Performance is one of those things. I can watch someone I’ve never even seen before sing a song or deliver a line in a play and start dabbing at my eyes because my life suddenly attaches itself to that moment by a memory that comes from who knows where. You might notice that old folks do a lot of eye-dabbing. Don’t mistake it for loneliness or regret. It’s more likely a connection, quickly discovered.
Each of us is a library, some with a single book and others with many
Tell me who you are. I already know me, or at least most of me, the parts I admit to myself. I want to know you and I don’t give a damn what you do, I want to know who you are. Let me tell you a story.
Decades ago, I attended a charity dinner with my then-wife, a tedious affair as most of them are, but then someone has to be there to eat the chicken so charity can be served. It was late, the drinking and dancing were wound up and the crowd was thinning. Two somewhat elderly ladies, left alone at an adjoining table by the end of the evening made their presence known and spoke to us:
“Well, we’ve been watching you all evening and are dying to know who you are.”
I answered reflexively, “My name is Freeman and I’m a landscape architect.”
“Oh my, no,” she replied, “tell us who you really are.”
That was a very inconsequential moment in a thoroughly inconsequential evening and yet I’ve never forgotten it. The image of those two ladies is imprinted on my mind and I can see them today as clearly as then.
Tell us who you really are
Not to put too fine a point on it, but lives are made up of events and memories. Events take care of themselves, one way or another, but memories build. Long lives are not all that different from short ones, save for the memories. There’s a certain reverence we hold for the truly old that’s not at all connected with the things they did in life, but for the experiences they remembered. A great-grandmother peeling apples in a Montana cottage she was born in inspires awe and she may never have made it as far as Bozeman.
Not the time, not the place, not the events—the memory bank.
It’s the connections that cause us to dab at our eyes.