The Old Woman
How we came to meet her…
Poor old Elysia received a good deal more of our derision (both directly and indirectly) during the cruel teen years of our lives. Those years when self-centeredness becomes a perfected art form and thoughts of yesterday or tomorrow are rare and always hinged upon the utilitarian present. The “here and now”, the current, and the “up to date” are all that matter to us in these years and for many, we never really escape the tyranny of the immediate. Arguably, we as a culture have become one big societal teenager. But, Elysia weathered us well, plodding along in her outwardly mundane, yet dignified existence, essentially unaware of those new fangled things we possessed and ways we behaved which brought so much comfort and self-assurance to our crazy lives.
Of all the strangeness surrounding Elysia, we cannot say that she was a lonely person. Indeed we would see numerous people paying her visits from time to time, but for the most part we did not know any of these visitors – which of course added to the intrigue of it all. Imagine my shock and surprise to see, while in transit, a friend sitting on Elysia’s porch swing, sipping lemonade and apparently chatting most agreeably with the decrepit specter of a woman! I couldn’t even manage a wave and a smile when our eyes met, but rather hurried along to my next important destination to relay the strange news. The aforementioned friend would have many, many questions to answer.
“Elysia’s not that bad” was essentially all he could muster in defense of the situation, as we laid into him unmercifully. He, however, did not seem to wish to talk about it much and I can vividly recall how this once rambunctious and rowdy teenager had suddenly become more subdued, in control, and serious – so much so that many of us speculated as to what the old woman might have done to our friend. Even witchcraft was amongst the theories. None of us could fathom what our friend saw in this crazy, old, and obsolete woman. What could they possibly talk about since it was obvious that Elysia had no concept of what the real world was all about, what was important in modern life, and where the world was headed. Eventually we concluded that he must have simply been visiting her for the sake of charity: maybe he was teaching her how to use a computer or something.
One day, while once again in transit (after all this is what we do as modern persons: we continually transition ourselves) I again saw my friend on Elysia’s porch. Later in a rare moment of real teen openness, I asked my friend discreetly why he was spending time with the old woman. His answer contained words that would haunt and perplex me for years to come:
”Mother Elysia knows a lot about stuff, she helps me think through shit.”
Now how this woman, stuck in the dark ages, could be described as knowing anything useful was strange in and of itself, but the fact that my friend called her “mother” scared the hell out of me. What was going on here?
Alas, time (meaning the hustle and bustle of hurried modern living) would not afford me opportunity to seek a detailed explanation from my friend. College directed us to different geographies and as often happens we subsequently lost contact with one another. But, strangely, I found myself often thinking about him and his “mother” Elysia.
Whereas childhood in our culture had taught me to scorn Elysia for her peculiarities, college enlightened me to instead have pity on her for her lack of intellectual and social sophistication, which I had – of course – come to possess by the summer of my senior year. With this pity in mind, I decided to finally pay Elysia a formal visit and express sorrow for my ignorant youthful misbehavior. Such condescension on my part seemed altogether appropriate and I was certain that despite her simplicity that she would appreciate and understand the profundity and generousness of my gesture.
As I approached Elysia’s porch, she turned to me from her porch swing, smiled, and much to my surprise, gently spoke my name. In that instant, it seemed my world was turned upside down, as it became oddly and suddenly clear to me that she would be the one condescending to meet me. I cannot explain it beyond an overriding sense that by way of her speaking my name, and her offering of a warm smile that I knew beyond any doubt that I was supremely out ranked. An altogether odd thing for a young strapping American college man to sense.
more to come…
...offered by Dn. fdj, a sinner at 7:49 AM [+]