By Grace Cooper
Listen while reading: “Rope Swings and Avalanches“ by Cate Curtis
AS I swept the last little bit of gardening debris from my front walk yesterday morning, a woman stopped to admire my pretty flower-filled boxes under the freshly washed windows. I spent days driving to all my favorite nurseries in hunt of the perfect specimens for my carefully composed planters. There were fresh fern accents for either side of my pretty lavender entrance and once bag after bag of dark brown peaty mulch was put in its place, all that was left to do was tidy up a bit. She stood there smiling up at the scene—a stately tall Victorian with “good bones” made even more charming by my horticultural efforts. “You must really be in love with your little home.” She smiled. I surveyed the scene, smiled back and murmured my agreement.
For years, my old homes, all carefully disassembled by construction crews under my hire, were then refashioned into inspired vignettes that brought people knocking, begging for a tour of my personal home and garden show. Today, in this moment, I thought to myself as this stranger strolled away, I want something more. Besides, my back is screaming in pain, and yoga class is still a day away.
This afternoon I accepted an invitation to lunch with a sweet friend—a lovely man with a thick shock of white hair framing his unlined face, made more handsome by his twinkly blue eyes. He belongs to a big noisy Irish clan, well known in town for the local business his father began over a century ago. As we walk to the restaurant, every other person we pass knows him and he holds out his hand to many. I tell him about my recent travels, including a writing workshop, and he listens intently, making comments about what kind of books he thinks I should write. “Romance novels sell,” he exclaims, “you could make a fortune.” I shake my head no, and tell him I have spent so much time dismantling the myths surrounding romance that for once I simply want to understand why it seldom seems to work out. He looks disappointed, but he is listening still.
“Were your parents in love?” I ask him. He considers this for a few minutes, but then tells me they made a great team. His dad worked hard, and his mom raised all those kids. “Were they happy?” I ask. He answers that he supposes they were, although often it was hard to tell. He tells me there was just too much hard work to distract, and a lot of static in the background, to really hear the melody of their lifelong partnership.
As I slowly move through the paces of my downward-facing dog, and my pigeon pose, the tight muscles in my lower back relax and my mind begins to unwind a bit, too. Romance is such a lovely way to think about life in general. I can certainly create a romantic garden or set a beautiful table for a romantic candlelit dinner for two. I just can’t seem to be able to conjure up the leading man to hold my hand across the table. So tonight, when I strip off my yoga clothing and stare into the mirror of my life, all I want to do is pull on my softest nightgown and slip between my freshly washed sheets to dream a bit about romance.
At this particular moment in time, strong fingers kneading the sore spot in the small of my back or caressing the swollen knuckles of my hard-working hands would be the kind of foreplay I desire. Someone sweet enough to treat me with some tenderness and compassionate understanding, as I would do for him, would make me go all weak in my aching knees. Is this the kind of romance that inspires my fellow senior citizens to keep looking for love, I wonder? Ah, but I still love to kiss, and if he were to hold me close, and dust his lips across my eyes, my cheek, soft breath in my ear… a shiver down my neck…
Such is the stuff of reality romance novels for this old gal.
—Grace Cooper (a nom de plume) left her long marriage a decade ago, and with it went all sense of her identity—but not for long. Now 67, she has begun chronicling her tales of looking for love in all the wrong places, and unexpectedly finding herself.