My husband used to laugh about the first time he was called “sir.”
He was a grad student, somewhere in his late twenties, and was meandering around the textbook section of The Harvard Coop when Jim was approached by a youngster working there, who asked if he needed any help. Whippersnapper!
I don’t remember the first time I was “ma’am’d”, but I suspect I was no older than thirty. And, even though I’m more than double that age, I’m still always a bit taken aback when someone calls me “ma’am.” Shouldn’t that honorific be reserved for, well, old ladies…
And then there came the event, just last weekend, when I do believe I officially became a little old lady. Make that a crazy little old lady.
Oh, there’ve been signs leading up to it. I’ve been channeling my mother, whistling under my breath, for a number of years now. (At such times, my sister Trish refers to me as “Ma.”)
But last Sunday, I did something so crazy old lady that I do believe I’ve officially crossed the line.
Here’s what happened.
I was heading out to the ‘burbs for the baby shower of a friend.
This is a friend my husband and I met twenty years ago when Jim sat next to her on a flight from Shannon to Boston. Long story short, L decided to stay and we became friends with her, and with her family back in Ireland. She’s now a U.S. citizen, and she and her husband are expecting her first child. As her oldest friend in the States, I was delighted to be at the shower.
I’d been to her new home out in the burbs – site of the shower – just once, and I had been a no-attention-paying passenger. (Her old house I knew how to get to.)
There was no GPS in my Zipcar. My ancient Blackberry doesn’t really navigate. And both printers in my house are broken. So I hand wrote the directions and hopped in my Zip.
Well, I may have skipped a step along the way. Or it may be the traditional Massachusetts problem, in which there are street signs on the side streets, but not on the main drags. In any case, I found myself tootling into Watertown, telling myself ‘hey, this is Watertown heading into Cambridge, not Waltham.’ And finding myself at the gates of Mt. Auburn Cemetery, which is where most of my husband’s ashes are at rest.
After a couple of gas station stops for directions, I did eventually find myself on the main street (a.k.a., Main Street) in Waltham. Well, this could have worked, except that I had no idea at this point which direction on Main Street I was headed in. And I couldn’t find the street I was looking for.
And then I saw the police car idling in the parking lot of yet another gas station.
So I pulled in and asked the officer for directions.
While the officer pulled up his online map, I went into a ramble about having to get to a shower. And having ended up at the gates of the cemetery where my husband is buried. And, by the way, on top of everything else, this would have been my wedding anniversary. (Not that we celebrated it, but still…) No doubt I threw in that, on the way to being lost, I drove by the funeral parlor where my cousin Charlie was waked, and the church where his funeral was held.
Officer John – by now we were on a first name basis - started reeling off the directions. I laughingly asked him if he had a printer on board. He didn’t.
I thought I was being pretty funny about the whole thing, but I’m pretty sure that he was thinking, what a dizzy dame. (Or whatever young folks call dizzy dames these days. Maybe crazy old lady?)
As he watched me madly writing down the complex and convoluted directions, John shook his head and said, “You’re never going to find it.”
“Not unless you drive me there,”I joked.
“Okay,” he said. “Follow me.”
So I did, and after a complex and convoluted journey, I got to my street.
John stopped the patrol car. I got out of my Zip. And we hugged each other.
“Sorry about your husband,” he told me.
(Had I really played the old lady sympathy card that hard? Apparently so.)
Meanwhile, half the folks on this quiet residential street were looking out their windows to see what was going on.
One old white-haired grampy actually came out on his front steps and waved to me.
Maybe he was just welcoming me to the club.