Midlife Crisis

By: L.B. Dunbar


Reflections in the mirror


How do I get myself into these things?

Oh, right, I can’t seem to say no.

I’d gotten roped into coordinating the fundraising service project for my son’s high school band. Ronin, my middle child, is a freshman, and he’s struggling. Since his older brother is a stud athlete, Ronin suffers from second child syndrome. Add in the fact he’s a band geek and theater nerd—his words, not mine—and guilty mother disorder kicks in for all the times I’ve hosted team dinners, contributed to the booster club, or attended a million football games. This event needed a parent representative, and the Miss-Never-Say-No in me volunteered to make Ronin happy.

One minute, I am standing at the Mystic Music Therapy School, introducing myself to the director, Ivy Everly, and her manager, Edie Carrigan, and a few weeks later, I’m attending a party.

Edie is a pixie blonde beauty, showing only a hint of her age, and we hit it off instantly. Both of us are transplants from the Midwest to California. She’s only been here six months while I’ve been here six years. My ex-husband, Paul, got transferred, and we took the move as a fresh start to our marriage. The Golden State would be an opportunity, and San Gabriel would be the perfect area for us. How wrong I’d been to believe him. Anyway, Edie and I are both in our forties, which is depressing to think about. I thought I’d be so much more accomplished by forty. Forty-one makes un-accomplishment seem so much more unnerving.

Edie is somehow related to Ivy. I can’t remember the connection. I can hardly remember my own family’s names, let alone the relations of others. Either way, they seem close despite their age difference. Although she looks barely nineteen, I’d place Ivy at mid to late twenties. It must suck to be beautiful, I think, chuckling to myself, envisioning the California blonde who eagerly greeted me at her therapy school and walked me through all I needed for the fundraiser. I can’t help admiring her hair. As I’ve grown older, my brunette color has dulled, turning mousy brown with streaks of gray woven through it.

“This is so exciting,” she exclaims after we run through the list of things I need to do with the high school students in preparation for the day. Rhythm Walk is the name of the walkathon to raise money for the therapy school. The high school band volunteered their support to show music is important to people of any ability and age. An event like this reinforces the private high school’s mission of service for others. I also volunteered because band sponsorship reduces the exorbitant tuition my ex and I agree to pay per the joint custody stipulations in our divorce decree. I sigh at the thought, reminding myself band keeps my kid out of trouble.

Prior to the party invitation, most of our interaction has been via email. In our first face-to-face meeting, I find I’ve made a new friend in Ivy and found a kindred one in Edie.

“I’m a bit lonely here,” Edie whispers, not wanting her younger counterpart to hear. “I mean, I love my new family, but I don’t know many other women my age.” It wasn’t an insult. It was a show of solidarity. Sisterhood of the Over Forty. Hurray! Cue dying noisemakers.

“You know,” Ivy interjects. “You should come to a party we’re hosting. We’re introducing Edie to some family friends.”

Edie rolls her eyes at me. “Get this. The party is called Meet the Wife.” A soft chuckle follows the title. “My new husband thought it would be a good way to show everyone he got married.” I’m certain there’s a story there, but I don’t inquire. The knowledge someone in her forties has found love again makes me smile, and Edie beams like a teenager at the mention of her man.

“Anyway, the party is tomorrow night. You should come. Bring a date.”

“Oh, I don’t date,” I blurt, exposing myself before I think. I look up in horror at the admission. A knowing smile curls on Edie’s face, and Ivy’s eyes widen.

“You should definitely come then. This isn’t a party for the young’uns,” Edie teases. “You never know who you might meet.”

Ivy giggles, shaking her sunshine-colored hair, and again, I’m certain there’s a story between them.