Today I'm turning 40. Last week it bothered me a lot more than it does now. I was nervous about hitting another decade with a bigger number. I am no longer 30-something, which could always be rounded down to 30 which was just a step away from 29, which is 20-something (barely over a teenager). But now it's a bigger stretch. I'm more likely to be lumped together with the 49 year-olds and rounded up to 50 which is just a short step away from 60 and then 70 and being considered "elderly." Right? That's a stupid word anyway! It sounds so feeble and frail. And who decides when one is no longer middle aged and becomes "elderly" anyway.
The group of women I met earlier this week -- who changed my mind about dreading my 40th birthday -- are not in any way "elderly." Yet they are all 73 years old and quite possibly some of the most fun and engaging women I've met in a long time. This group consists of 8 ladies of the class of 1956 from Big Spring High School in the town of Big Spring. They come together once a year every year for an adventure and bonding. Some years it's a cruise. Sometimes a road trip, this year they came together in the community of Gruene to shop, sip wine on the balcony over the river, and take one outrageous photograph together for the first and maybe only time.
They joke about having to get it done before one of them dies. But there's no danger of that any time soon. These women are healthy, active, vibrant and sassy. I sat down for lunch with them at the Gristmill before the photograph and got to know some of their stories. They live all over the state now in cities like Lubbock, Fort Worth, Austin, San Antonio. Some of them fly to get together, others drive, others take the train. They exchanged stories about their children, weddings in their family, speeding tickets, television programs, politics (they don't all agree but the respect they showed for each other could teach the politicians a few things). When one of the ladies told a story of a surgery she had recently the table grew quiet with concern as she assured them it was okay now and that she hadn't told them about it because she didn't want to concern them. The love between them was clear in those moments of silence.
They shared stories of silly college days, although all went away to different schools all over the state they had plenty of visits to each other. They talked with giddy excitement about the photograph they'd take and what they'd be wearing -- crazy colors, stripes, checks, big hats. One of the ladies jokingly suggested they just go naked (one lady volunteered to strip down right then and there) and asked if I'd ever seen that. When I told them about the session I shot last year (click here to read my blog about that one) in which another beautiful lady turned 50 and posed with all her best friends in the buff. They scoffed "pish! 50!" they said. "That's young!"
I confessed that I myself was turning 40 in just a few days and they shared a look between them. No doubt the same look I share with my fellow middle agers when a youngster amongst us mentions her own aging body at the age of 27 or bemoans turning 30 as if it were a death sentence. "It gets better from here on out," the ladies told me over Caesar salad and iced tea at lunch. They should know. I hope I'm as active and fun when I'm their age. I hope I can strip down naked and dance with a glass of champagne when I'm 50. I hope I can continue to grow and learn every day about love, photography, family, life. And thank God with every breath that I'm here.
Lisa On Location Photography