pursemugipadIt’s two o’clock on a Saturday afternoon at WriterHouse in Charlottesville, and I’m the Open Hours volunteer. Since a lively creative nonfiction class meets in the small classroom next to the reception desk, I plop my purse, travel mug with green tea and iPad on the table in the large classroom and leave the door open to a view of the lobby entrance.

After canvassing the place including the kitchen, in case it needs tidying, I retrieve the cordless phone from its charger in the Salon. There a 24/7-access writer hunches over his laptop on a desk in the corner. He looks up and waves. I wave back and close the door behind me, then switch phone ringer from off to low, check messages, settle into a chair in the large classroom and open the Kindle app on my iPad.

My goal for the three-hour shift is to finish reading the memoir I began earlier in the day.

The class, which started at 1:00, takes a break, and participants gather in the lobby near the restrooms. Being nosy by nature, I turn and listen. They chat about ex-spouses, children and jobs – experiences that shaped them and about which they write.

Break over I stick my nose back in the memoir.

A mom walks in to pick up the literary journal from summer youth camp. Her daughter can’t wait to get her hands on it, mom gushes. Handing her a copy, I proclaim, your daughter is now a published author.

Mom leaves happy, and I return to the memoir.

An artist arrives with a CD containing images of her work. She hopes to show at WriterHouse in the near future, and would I make sure the curator gets the CD with contact information? Yes, I assure, someone will contact you soon.

When the artist departs, I note the percentage of the memoir yet to be read.

At 3:30 the class ends. Two women about my age linger in the lobby. Their quiet chat will not bother the Salon writer, I think but sigh as I set my iPad aside.

One lady says she’s not as tall as she used to be. I nod my head. The other, who walks with a quad cane, says she stands taller now that the vertebra from here-to-here got fused. Last year I was so hunched over I could hardly walk – she demonstrates.

After not-as-tall says goodbye, no-longer-hunched looks towards me. Selfish impatience threatens to wipe open invitation off my face.

Aging is not fun, she mutters and heads for the exit. I reply, yeah my 91-year-old mother says aging is not for sissies. The woman stops for a moment. But look at me, I’m here now, she says, and I say, and that’s a good thing.

She smiles, and so do I.


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