Look Out!

A red hat hangs over a golf cap on a rack.

Now that I’m seventy
I wear my dead husband’s stained golf cap
with my pony tail through the back hole
and the visor pulled down
in a vain attempt to prevent the sun
darkening that spot on my nose
and too-big gardening gloves
to rake and weed, weed and sweep.

I’m bent and
my bra straps fall out of
my faded black sleeveless top
over crepey skin and biceps
built from all the reps for weak bones,
rounder that when I picked up
my toddlers all day long.

My grandkids have to walk. We go slow.

I switch the broom to the other side
so my back won't ache.

My cargo shorts droop
with the weight of shears, keys, phone
over a butt gone flat
and slide under a belly rounded up.

The heavy cotton makes a tan line I
would have despised fifty years ago,
along with the white ankles and feet
under my low-rise socks and worn-out Nikes
that collect — connect me to —
the dirt.

More every year.

While the button on this cap top
pulls heavenward
and I remember:
stand up tall.

For Jenny Jones and Red Hat Societies Everywhere

Jenny Jones wrote a poem called "Warning" many years ago that begins: "When I am an old woman I shall wear purple/With a red hat which doesn't go…"

That poem appeared in many incarnations. My mother, who is 93, has it framed in her bathroom.

Ms. Jones says it led to many adventures, one of which is the phenomenon of Red Hat societies.

I have never belonged to such a society, though I sometimes do wear a red hat. But as a reporter for “The Sentinel” newspaper in Carlisle, Pa., I attended a Red Hat meeting out in the Newville area.

Imagine several dozen well-groomed women of a certain age crowding into the living room, dining room, and sun porch of a nicely refurbished Victorian farmhouse, wearing outrageously decorated red hats — and boas — sipping cups of tea, all talking at once, louder and louder to be heard, and screaming with laughter.

I wasn't sorry to leave the noise behind halfway through, although my smile lasted all the way back to the newsroom.

Jenny Jones was a youngish woman fantasizing about being older when she wrote her poem. She ends her poem with the resolve to act, while still young, as uninhibited as older women do.

Whether she inspired other young women to “be themselves,” I don’t know. But obviously she hit a nerve with older women. My response to Ms. Jones was a bit different than that of the matrons in that Red Hat group flaunting their well-earned audaciousness.

Like them, I have the perspective of a woman already grown older, grown unselfconscious. But — not always wearing a flashy hat.