My friend Tina took me to the theatre to celebrate my birthday.

As we sat in the balcony, I eagerly anticipated Jacques’ famous speech,

one I first heard live on the Goshen College stage.

Do you remember “The seven stages of man” speech?

Here is an old movie version that uses subtitles so you can read the text:

 

Like so many of Shakespeare’s comedies,

As You Like It does not shy away from the source of greatest tragedy: death.

But instead of littering the stage with bodies at the end (the conclusion of most of the tragedies),

the great playwright straightens out the twisted plot and marries off all the lovers.

The play, therefore, focuses on the “third stage” where lovers sigh like furnaces

and compose ballads to eyebrows.

In their passion and silliness lie the seeds of their future fates.

No matter their generativity or ambition,

no man escapes; the seven stages of man end in oblivion:

“Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”

 

Thankfully, I still have teeth, eyes, and taste,

so I composed my own “seven stages” speech,

with apologies to the Bard and all of you.

 

The Seven Stages of Woman

All the world’s a stage

and all the women and men merely players:

they have their exits and their entrances;

and one woman in her time plays many parts,

her acts being seven ages.

 

At first the infant,

mewling and puking in her mother’s arms:

Mother and me, 1948

And then the eager school girl, with her satchel

and shining morning face, fluttering like a butterfly

exchanging farm for school.

How I loved my satchels.

How I loved my satchels. 1955

 

And then the lover,

sighing like a furnace, with a woeful ballad

made to her true love’s stylish sideburn

1969

 

And the peace activist

sans denim, sans boots, sans sunscreen

going north while the crowd goes south

Washington DC, May 9, 1970

Washington DC, May 9, 1970

Then the classroom years.

The professor beardless, seeking wisdom,

and then

feeling the weight of the presidential medallion,

 she plays her part.

J. Lawrence Burkholder, Myrl Nofziger, Elvin Kraybill (nearly hidden), Victor Stoltzfus, me, 1997. Goshen College inauguration.

1997.

The sixth age shifts

into the lean and slipper’d pantaloon,

with spectacles on nose and pouch on side

Jubilación attire.

Jubilación attire.

No last scene yet

but pilgrim days of walking, singing, touching, savoring, listening

in silence and with voice

Avec joy, avec love, avec mischief, avec everything!

*****

 

All the birthday hoopla is over now.

My family and friends totally surprised me with a book

of stories, poems, pictures, and memories

gathered from all over the country and from many of those seven stages of life.

July 30, 2018

July 30, 2018

I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all of you,

no matter when or how we met,

no matter whether you contributed to the book or not,

I celebrate all the inter-related stages of all our lives.

This book ranks among my very favorite birthday gifts.

What was your favorite present?

 

Shirley Showalter

18 Comments

  1. Laurie Buchanan on August 4, 2018 at 9:41 pm

    WOW!
    Just wow, Wow, WOW! I love it.
    I thoroughly enjoyed reading “The Seven Stages of Woman” and seeing the accompanying photographs.
    (Pssst, I’m so glad you still have your teeth, eyes, and taste)…

    • Shirley Showalter on August 5, 2018 at 7:23 pm

      Ha, Laurie. I almost added that the teeth have cost me dearly. Glad you enjoyed.

  2. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on August 4, 2018 at 9:48 pm

    This was such a fun post to read! Gotta keep our sense of humor through it all! And congrats on your birthday, young thing!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 5, 2018 at 7:25 pm

      I absolutely agree about humor. Thanks for being a great role model in aging, Alfrieda.

  3. Merril Smith on August 5, 2018 at 6:43 am

    It sounds like you’ve had a wonderful birthday celebration. Wonderful photos!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 5, 2018 at 7:28 pm

      Thanks, Merril. It truly was a joy. My favorite photo is the sideburn. 🙂

  4. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on August 5, 2018 at 11:18 am

    “Slippered pantaloons” and the silky photo linger in my imagination.
    And, the photo of the eager scholar….I relate to this, since I have memories of eagerly awaiting my sixth birthday so I could go to school. There was no kindergarten for the country children, so going to first grade was a real thrill.
    What a wonderful celebration of a milestone birthday.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 5, 2018 at 7:32 pm

      Shakespeare has a genius for tickling our imaginations with sounds and images. Any parody will sound tinny in comparison. As a result, the best lines in my parody were written by the bard himself. Thanks for playing, Dolores.

  5. Marian Beaman on August 5, 2018 at 1:27 pm

    Well done, Shirley: The parody here and the stages in real life through age seventy. I’m definitely near the last stage, joyfully enjoying most of my faculties, thank you very much.

    Happy to see the book in hand with or without “slipper’d pantaloons”!

    • Shirley Showalter on August 5, 2018 at 7:37 pm

      Thanks, Marian, and if you can hang on to those faculties a little while longer, you’ll soon have your own book in hand! 🙂 I know how hard the last part of the process is. Not a country for old women.

      Hope you can enjoy slippers and pantaloons too one of these days!

  6. June on August 6, 2018 at 12:42 am

    Thank you Shirley for the seven stages, I am grateful that you have not had your ‘final curtain call.’ I thank you for your stories.
    Belated happy anniversary of the day you were born.
    My favorite gift is a handmade, homemade Velvetine Bear

    • Shirley Showalter on August 6, 2018 at 3:02 pm

      June, glad you enjoyed the little parody.

      A homemade velveteen bear. Sounds like a story behind that present. Hope you write it down and save it with the bear. Are you going to see the new movie about Christopher Robin? It looks good in the previews and just perfect for you, your bear, and your favorite child.

  7. Tracy Rittmueller on August 6, 2018 at 11:15 am

    This is sweet, Shirley. Celebratory and thoughtful, a reminder that the awareness of “how it ends” makes every moment of the present more awesome, truthful, and valuable.

    My favorite present came this past Mothers’ Day, when my daughter in law made bookmarks from full-length photos of each of my granddaughters. On the front was a cutout image of them in motion, hanging from a ribbon — on the back “Can I “hang” with you while you read?”

    The perfect gift for a bookworm grandma.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 6, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      Such a clever present, Tracy. And it really captures the essence of lap time and reading — true intimacy. I can visualize you with your precious little girls. The gift was for them, also. Good on you, daughter-in-law.

  8. Joan Z. Rough on August 6, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    I Love It! I’m so glad you had a wonderful birthday celebration. And welcome to the 70’s. I’ve enjoyed my years in them so far. It’s a time to relax, stretch, and grow with gratitude and love.

    • Shirley on August 6, 2018 at 3:06 pm

      You describe the best of slippered pantaloon life, Joan. I’m grateful to have both older and younger friends. You have shown me how to continue nurturing creativity while also embracing your whole life story — all seven stages — the good and the bad.

  9. Linda Gartz on August 6, 2018 at 8:32 pm

    So wonderful and filled with truth and a nostalgia that touches us all at this age. Happy belated birthday. I’m in my fat wool Ugg slippers as I write this (even in summer my feet are cold!) Lovely. Thanks for sharing.

    • Shirley Showalter on August 7, 2018 at 2:45 pm

      Glad I’m not the only one who wears lamb’s wool slippers in the summer, Linda. And yes, the nostalgia is coming in thick and fast, but not as much as the gratitude. I know you know what I mean!

Leave a Comment





Pin It on Pinterest

Share This
%d bloggers like this: