"Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow. Try to remember the kind of September when grass was green and grain was yellow ..."
There's something so soothing about these lyrics. They're from a musical called "The Fantasticks" and I first heard them at a Fresno State production way back in the late '60s, if memory serves me right. I'm quite sure I didn't have a clue what the words meant at the time, but I sure do now.
On a more recent Wednesday morning, my daughter and I took a long, sprawling walk all for the sake of uninterrupted "us" time. Wearing little if any makeup, carrying no agenda or small children (she has four), it was just the two of us, a rarity during this age and stage of life.
Hair tucked back, sunglasses hiding sleep-deprived eyes, fluorescent tennis shoes hitting pavement, we paced our stride slow, steady and deliberate — knowing we needed to talk without losing balance or breath.
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She had stopped by one afternoon just a few weeks earlier, bringing with her heavy reflections about our lifestyles. Said they were running amuck, going haywire — that everyone was racing a hundred miles an hour. Her words made my eyes sting.
Life had become a high-speed chase to get to who knows where. Our combined list of mommy responsibilities, book-writing deadlines, community commitments and extra duties as assigned was intruding on sacred family time. Before she left, we embraced (a squeeze tighter than usual), and made a pact to spend more time together.
"Great things happen when women gather." Helen Hunt spoke these words last year at the Central California Women's Conference. It's been 27 years since the late state Sen. Ken Maddy first dreamed up the concept for an all-day event serving women. All generations, ethnicities and backgrounds. Mothers and daughters.
The gathering has grown from 200 women in the very beginning to this year's sellout crowd exceeding 3,500, a staggering number but one underscoring the value and importance of such a day. Women need each other now more than ever, and we deserve intellectual pampering.
I'd attended on and off since the conference's inception, hearing words of wisdom from such notables as Erin Brockovich, Suze Orman and this year's keynoter — Valerie Bertinelli. No matter who took the noontime podium, there was always a powerful takeaway. But this year my priority would be spending the day with my daughter and carrying home a renewed bond.
A sea of glorious women welcomed us as we made our entrance, sipped coffee, adjusted name lanyards, and then carved out the day according to our mother-daughter whims. For eight hours, my daughter and I celebrated life in tandem, breathing it all in, reflecting on our individual lives, tinkering with hopes and dreams, all the while listening to the talented line-up of presenters, most of them local, high-octane, women of substance.
Beyond our own mother-daughter desires, I noticed a greater sense of urgency from the crowd this year. Maybe it's because we're living in such trying times — a high decibel, never quieting volume of life blasting through our eardrums. Haunting headlines that keep us awake at night: beheadings, hurricanes, domestic disturbances. Drought and raging fires burning too close to home.
With notebook in hand, I wanted desperately to jot a few words of wisdom — a phrase or two that might sustain me through the coming season, become my early morning/late night mantra.
Bertinelli delivered. She quoted her co-star on television's "Hot in Cleveland," Betty White, who at 92 possesses a passion and fervor nothing short of unstoppable. When asked recently what she wanted for her 93rd birthday, she replied, "I'd like to run wild."
Hearing these words sparked something in me — the realization that at any age, the tugs of life challenge us to regroup, recalibrate, and find balance. Whether cast in the role of busy mom, a Baby Boomer sandwiched between aging parents and grandchildren, single and solo, young or old — how empowering to reconnect with the fierce, healthy, "wild woman" residing or maybe even hiding inside each of us. But finding her is not always easy.
"Change begins one breath at a time. Don't forget to breathe," Bertinelli emphasized in her closing remarks. And then she added, "We are all works in progress." As she spoke, I could have sworn I heard the faint soundtrack from the show that made her a star, "One Day at a Time."
And with that, my daughter and I gave each other a look signaling it was time to escape.
Armed with our new mantra, we drove across town to a secret spot where we could laugh, cry, talk and digest the nutrients of a magical day.
Running wild. Just the two of us.