We drove to Palmer mid-month on one of the few really nice sunny days we had in September. That lasted until about Tern Lake where it started to rain. We saw a pair of swans with their ugly ducklings (I know!! Cygnets, but I always think of the Anderson fairy tale “The Ugly Duckling” when I see young swans). The rain was the usual September showers until the Hope turnoff, where it turned into a monsoon, and maintained the downpour until Girdwood. No swans at the bottom of the pass, but we did see a couple of pairs on the ponds alongside the highway getting to Girdwood. There were none at Potter’s Marsh, so it must not be time yet to really give up on fall.
We went to Palmer because my sister was surprising her hubby with a birthday party for a milestone birthday. By the time we got there it was no longer a surprise, but that’s O.K. It was a good party. We saw all of his kids and a couple of his grandkids (teenagers now), whom we hadn’t seen for awhile, and met a sister who hadn’t visited Alaska recently. And assorted friends, some we knew, some new acquaintances.
Two of my sister’s granddaughters were there (my grand-nieces) as the only other representatives of our family. It gave my sister and I a good comparison of family gathering dynamics: our family are loud, and rambunctious partiers. A hot dog, a beer, and a chocolate cupcake on a paper plate in the backyard and you have a birthday party.
Sister offered Duchess potatoes, steak Oscar (with perfect hollandaise sauce made from scratch) and two birthday cakes, served on fine china (how my sister accomplished that, I am not sure) and Mom‘s sterling. Everyone sat and made polite conversation at a normal vocal level around the table. We even sang “Happy Birthday” with no raucous lyrics.
I remember my brother once, as we watched our mom glorying in being the instigator of yet another get together, saying to me, “Someday, YOU will be the matriarch.” At the time, I laughed and said, “I will abdicate.” Lately, I have had the experience of being the oldster. It has its merits: “Oh! Let me get that for you”; “Let me help! I’ll carry that.” I’m still deciding if I want to give up my “do it myself” in favor of being on a throne. So far it is a toss-up
When we were young adults just beginning into real life, I was the youngest in our crowd. We ran in crowds then, not tribes, posses or groups, just a bunch of kids who like to be together for whatever reason (actually any reason). Being the youngest didn’t present many problems. We seldom went any place one had to be “of age” to attend, and if we did, I’d put my hair up, wear high heels and makeup, and stay to the center of the crowd and no one noticed. As time went on, we all started getting jobs, having kids, establishing homes, becoming producing adults (for the most part) and age didn’t matter.
Eventually we went to our kids’ ball games, bought houses, developed careers or businesses and became middle aged. The crowd dispersed, except for a few close friends forming other crowds who crossed paths on occasion with a “Hey, remember when…” Nobody knew how old anyone was and didn’t really care. We were too busy being adults. Then came the empty nest, retirement, grandkids, a few years of travel and play then readjustment to being part of a crowd again. And being the “older group.”
It occurred to me that we go through stages all our lives. The “terrible twos,” first day of school, adolescence, senioritis. We recognize all the stages of childhood, acknowledging that at a certain age, all kids go through this or that stage never really recognizing that those stages last all our lives.
I thought of this as I watched the passing of the Queen. I never was much of a Royal watcher, but in 70 years our attention has been drawn across the Atlantic more than once for a scandal, a war, a wedding, a passing or just a friendly wave and I wondered if once in awhile she wished she could just step away and become simply the matriarch of an anonymous family kicking up their heels somewhere in the Highlands of Scotland.
We left Palmer in a rainstorm, of course. It tapered off after Anchorage. We saw two pairs of swans on Potter’s Marsh and noticed the Ugly Ducklings and parents had moved to the roadside ponds along the arm. A sure sign of impending southward migration. And that is what we were doing: heading home where it doesn’t matter how old I am!!