September 27, 2010


Saturday, I went to a baby shower I’d been anticipating (Blog 9/1/2010). I was met by a butler in a dark suit, a pink satin tie and with the requisite tea towel slung over his left arm. His left hand held a bottle of bubbly which he poured freely. He turned out to be the husband of the hostess, a charming man with no fear of women’s gatherings. What a refreshing attitude. He’d marked my first generational difference the moment I’d stepped through the door.

The butler led me to a garden where a table groaned — yes groaned — under an array of finger foods, including deviled eggs which I love. The women gathered were thirty-something’s, all attractive career women and most of them appearing to juggle a family with ease. One young woman, who was not the guest of honor, was about to have her first child too and she looked remarkably fit. I watched as she sank into an egg cupped chair that I would never attempt to fit into and with equal ease got out again — another generational difference.  During my child bearing years, yoga was a word one had to look up in a dictionary.

After I’d mingled a while, I asked my hostess what sort of games we’d be playing. I was curious to learn if these too would be different. She looked at me nonplussed, as if I’d arrived at the wrong party. She told me no games were scheduled but a woman would soon arrive to give a Henna. Now it was my turn to look nonplussed. Henna, in my vernacular, is a temporary dye that turns the hair a bright, bright red, a technique as ancient as Cleopatra’s time. Obviously, I didn’t understand, but I asked no further questions and waited until the woman arrived. When she did, there was no mistaking her. She was a lovely young person with dark dreadlocks down to her waist, her slim body swathed in colorful cotton prints of exotic design. She wore all the required beads and bangles of an Egyptian dancer and made a tinkling sound as she glided in and out among us. Her entrance was a work of art but what fascinated me most was that I recognized her at once. She was a character from the pages of my newest novel: the gypsy who warns my heroine of impending danger.

There are moments, it is said, when life is stranger than fiction. My meeting with the Henna woman was one of them. As I stood regarding her, I thought of the “Inkheart” trilogy by Cornelia Funke where characters escape from the pages of books to become real. Had Cornelia Funke experienced an occasion similar to mine? Was that the genesis for her novels, I wondered.

Certainly, I can’t account for my experience. I can only enjoy the fact that at 74, life still holds surprises for me. I talked to the young woman as she proceeded to paint flowers on the pregnant belly of the guest of honor. Henna used in this way becomes a temporary tattoo which lasts a few weeks. The design was beautiful and appropriate for a baby girl about to take her place in the world. As to the woman creating the design, for all her exotic looks, she was as normal as apple pie. We talked as she worked on her painting. For her it was an ordinary job, on an ordinary day in a charming but ordinary setting. For me, the experience was magical.