A few weeks ago my husband and I attended a community event at one of our area’s most wonderful treasures, the Westerly Armory, an event that attracted several hundred people. As we were sitting at the table, sipping our wine while awaiting dinner, Steve came over to greet us, he a member of one of Westerly’s more prominent families. He greeted us warmly, smiled broadly, put one hand on my husband’s shoulder and the other hand on my shoulder (almost Joe Biden-like), and said, “There they are, two of Westerly’s legends!” I immediately recoiled in horror. Legend? Me? Don’t wanna be no legend!
Ever notice they always announce an old actor, an old sports figure, or the oldest person in the room by saying, “The legendary Betty White!” or “the legendary sports broadcaster, Dick Vitale!” What they really mean is “old.” Hell, not just old, but having played dodge ball with Moses. So when people give them a huge round of applause upon hearing their name, they’re really applauding their genes or good luck or God’s will for keeping them still upright, i.e., “Look, Harry, Betty White can still cut her own meat!” or, “Dick Vitale can still walk and shake hands!”
Now, I’m sure Steve meant well, but I’m still shuddering. I decided to see if perhaps I was overreacting, so I looked up many meanings of being a legend. It can be a historical story like that of King Arthur (nope, the tables in our home are oblong and square); it could be mythical like the Loch Ness monster (I have no extraneous body hair); or a famous person known for doing something extremely well and now nearing the end of their life (don’t like that definition at all!). Lady Godiva was a legend, they said, as she rode her horse naked through the streets of Coventry. I don’t ride a horse, you don’t want to see me naked, and the only way I get to the streets of Coventry is by taking Exit 6.
All in all, given these examples, I don’t believe I qualify to be a legend. I just want to be little old me. It has served me well all these years, and I enjoy my anonymity as much as I enjoy being “recognized” in these parts. Just the other day while out walking, a white truck pulled over and “Joe,” a friendly sort who lives in my neighborhood, stopped to chat me up and give me a compliment or two. That was nice, made my day. And really, that’s all the heady stuff I will ever need. It’s really all anyone needs because our pop culture tends to deify our rock stars and sport stars and movie stars and then cannot figure out why they act so badly, so entitled, so legend-like.
Actually, I don’t believe people should be legends at all. Legends belong to history, to happenings, to stories that trickle down through the centuries. But when we start deifying people, the whole thing just spirals out of whack.
So Steve, while I really appreciated your sentiment and am always glad to see you on the rare occasions that we do run into one another around town, how about a handshake or a warm hug next time (just don’t blow on my hair, Biden-like)? I always enjoy speaking with you, your wife, your in-laws, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting your soon-to-be-famous daughter who works for NBC in New York. But … please, let’s not use the L-word. I can still walk, cut my food, have all my faculties, and no infirmity, so let’s just call me “Rona,” or “hey, you!”or “that broad who writes for The Sun.”
Has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?
Happy Mother’s Day
I could not let this day go by without wishing all the mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers the happiest of Mother’s Days. Whether you celebrate with a phone call from afar, or do it up big with your family, it is you who are the stuff from which family legends are made. I have often heard mothers say, “I wish I had done more or done it differently, or done it better.” There has never been one woman in the history of motherhood who was perfect, and there never will be. So thank you all for the enormous job you applied for, got hired for, and carry out to this day. Enjoy!
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 17 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539-7762.