Cobblestones and Aging: Strange Bedfellows


I’m in Mexico head down, walking on cobblestones, stepping in between the uneven cracks trying to avoid snubbing my toe, twisting an ankle or, worse yet, stumbling into a pothole that comes up fast, out of nowhere like a wave on an otherwise calm sea. I raise my head for just a second or two and spot a pair of long, shapely woman’s legs—pale as a newborn baby’s butt—too pale to reflect the hot afternoon sun that shimmers on the dark skin of many Mexicans whose quaint World Heritage town has been overrun by gringos who have flocked here after Travel & Leisure crowned it the Number One—that’s Numero Uno—city in the whole world. (I wonder if the editors tried to walk on the cobblestones before they made their choice.)

Aside from a slight jiggle on the back of the young woman’s calves with each step, her pale legs are a blank slate like a piece of notebook paper sitting on a desk in front of a kid who has not done his homework and itches to play video games—to do anything—except fill the blank piece of paper with something that resembles a few coherent sentences.

I follow the gringa with the pale legs and imagine what they’ll look like some forty years hence. The legs are no longer spotless but covered by purplish spider veins that resemble the random rivers, streams, and arroyos on a detailed page of an atlas or an online map of the world’s most popular biking routes.

I wonder whether she swallowed her ego enough to wear support hose during one or two pregnancies (actually, 2.4 according to the most recent data)—stockings advertised as “elegant in appearance,” “ultra fashion” support, on sale at Walgreens for $24.99. If she didn’t wear support stockings in mortal fear of looking like a Red Cross nurse, then perhaps she discovered Joan River’s The Right to Bare Legs, a foundation makeup for legs that does a decent job of camouflaging all the insults of aging but also does a number on pant legs, bath towels, and sheets. I’m not sure which is worse—doing laundry with those hard-to-remove stains or baring legs will all the markers of a life many decades in the making.

If I take any lesson from this pale-legs-go-bad saga, it is this: best to focus on the potential hazards of walking on cobblestones than on a young woman’s pale, unmarred legs that remind us senior women that young women age like the rest of us and will have to either accept the physical chain reaction of a long life, well lived, or fight a losing battle (unless they are part of the 1 percent) with both their bodies and their minds.  (Warning: Don’t use the same plastic surgeon who did Goldie Hawn’s facelift.)  Growing older can be a gift, if only we open the package and treasure what’s inside—whether or not the gift was on our wish list.

Photo by Giselle Peters

My Neighbors’ Memorial Day Party

Memorial Day Party

I knew it: my neighbors were having a party.  Their deck had been power washed.  The gas grill had been moved to the yard. One of those plastic flowered table cloths had been spread over the table that easily seats eight.  (But I’ve never known these neighbors to limit to eight.)

I was in trouble.  My neighbors’ parties are noisy and long.  Lots of drinking.  Laughing.  Actually, shouting.

It was a beautiful Memorial Day.  For a change.  No rain.  No wind to speak of.  Only bright sun and blue skies.

I wanted to sit outside, revel in the garden, read, do my Spanish homework.  I slathered myself with suntan lotion, donned my sun hat, and made sure my glasses had turned dark.  (I’d had a pre cancerous something or other frozen two weeks before and didn’t dare expose the scab to more sun.)

Okay, I admit it: the older I get, the less tolerance I have for noisy neighbors.  I crave living on a large piece of land with no neighbors in site and no noise within earshot.  Sure, I love the benefits of living in a college town with its proximity to a large, thriving city.  But enough is enough.  I’ve done my share of parties.  I’ve raised my son and all of his raucous friends.  I want peace and quiet.

My neighbors’ party didn’t get started until 2:30 or so.  It might as well have started at 10 a.m. because that’s when I began to fret.  How could I escape?  Why hadn’t my husband and  I gone out of town?  Why didn’t we know anyone who was having a party?  Better to make noise than to receive it.

I tried to relax—to remember the sounds of  Mexico: the blaring music (all of it traditional Mexican); the firecrackers at any time day or night; the roosters; the church bells and, most egregious the trucking warehouse about 20 feet from our living room where crews loaded and unloaded around the clock and had not a scintilla of respect when it came to making noise, even when the owner of the warehouse supposedly asked them to keep the noise down.

So, what was the problem with one (make that two) parties that would be over by midnight?  Plenty.  Hadn’t I vowed that, after Mexico, I wouldn’t allow myself to be bothered by noise?  I lied.  Sounded good when I took my vows.

I was out of luck and out of time.  I suppose the only silver lining is that Memorial Day doesn’t come around again for another year.

But there’s the Fourth of July, Labor Day, who knows how many birthdays . . .

Let’s face it: I’m screwed.



Ah, San Miguel de Allende (SMA), the World Heritage Mexican town 3.5 hours northwest of Mexico City.  SMA, a haven for ex pats, mainly Americans with a dose of Europeans and more and more Canadians.  (Alas, the Canadian dollar is in free fall, down to 13.45 against the Mexican peso, as compared to 17.70 against the American dollar.  Simply put, Canadians don’t have the same buying power they used to have in Mexico and parts around the world.  Which, BTW, is good news for the rest of us gringos who want to rent or buy a casa in what is an overly-inflated housing market.)

But I digress.

My husband and I are officially “snow birds.”  We escape Chicago’s normally harsh winters—we may have to reconsider after this year’s “mild” winter—in favor of warmer climes.  For the past six years, we’ve rented a casa in SMA and have enjoyed the Mexican charm, Spanish lessons, the best yoga instructor en el mundo, an expanding group of new friends (sadly, all Americans), delicious food (My diet went the way of the taco), and, yes, plenty of Maragaritas.

So, why in heaven’s name am I glad to be home?  Let me count the ways:


  • No more cobblestone streets that make it impossible to wear anything other than ugly-ass tennis shoes or an uninspiring selection of “flats.”  Not to mention the more than 50 per cent chance of stubbing a toe or, worse yet, twisting an ankle.




  • No more nasty bacteria that swept SMA and laid me low for weeks.  Sure, I caught up on my book club’s reading list but spent way too much time on the couch.
  • No more long johns for those freezing January and early February mornings and evenings in houses with no central heating.  A gas fireplace and some electric heaters just don’t cut it.
  • No more avoiding water from the tap like the plague.  At home, I can brush my teeth and gargle with tap water.  I can take a shower and open my mouth without fear of coming down with Montezuma’s Revenge.  I can slurp a glass of water at any restaurant in town.
  • No more warehouse crews directly across the calle who arrive at all hours of the day and night.  I thought the slew of neighborhood boys back home playing tag football on their front lawns or jumping on a backyard trampoline were an unsurmountable cause of my sound paranoia.  But after the warehouse crews, the wild dogs, the roof dogs,  firecrackers exploding at the crack of dawn, the middle of the night, the traditional Mexican music that wears thin, the drumming in the jardin, the Mariachi bands . . . well, I think I can make it through another summer without running for the peace and quiet on a 4+-acre plot somewhere in the country.
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  • No more bakeries every block or so, all offering tempting goodies that I can’t resist.  I blew my pseudo Paleo diet within the first 24 hours and never got back on the wagon; rather, I needed a wagon to carry me up and down the hills of SMA.



  • Ah, and that brings me to another reason why I’m glad to be home: there are no hills here.  Sure, I’d like some variety, but the uphill climes required to get around SMA can aggravate a bum knee, put excessive pressure on the heart, and just plain tucker you out.  I was four years younger when we rented a casa “up the hill.”  And for the first month, I trudged up every day, often twice.  But by month #2, I’d had it. Luckily, taxis are cheap (about $2.50 to go anywhere in town), and I took full advantage of their services. This year I didn’t even bother to play the athlete.  I didn’t walk “up the hill” once.

Oh, hell, I hear the neighborhood ruffians outside.  They’re out there playing hoops while on the trampoline. Grant me the memory of Mexico’s cacophony so that I can weather the spring and summer in peace.

Back in the good ole’ U.S.A.