Jennifer LaRue

I write it as I see it.

A few weeks ago one of my Facebook friends posted, for reasons I can’t recall, photos of Hugh Grant as a young man and as he looks nowadays.

Hugh Grant is my guilty pleasure, my favorite actor of all time, not necessarily for his outright skill and talent (which I think he has in abundance) but because he has always had a self-effacing way about himself, which only adds to his already alluring appeal. My film version of comfort food is a good Hugh Grant rom-com; I also have always loved his appearance on the Jay Leno show after he was caught being naughty with a prostitute.

Looking at the photos my friend posted, my knee-jerk reaction was to favor the one of the young, wrinkle-free Hugh.

But after a moment I realized that I actually find mature Hugh far more interesting and attractive. Yes, he has wrinkles and sagging skin and greying hair — but he has earned them. I appreciate that he has announced that he is “too old, ugly, and fat” to be the leading man in romantic comedies any longer.

And I beg to differ.

As a mature woman who has gravitated toward younger men in recent years, I’ve learned a lot. And one thing I’ve learned is that the wrinkles and bags we collect in life can go either way: They can either look and feel like beat-up old duffel bags that are heavy and cumbersome and drag our souls down, or they can be beautiful pieces of vintage luggage, with stickers representing the places we’ve been, the hotels we’ve slept in, the airlines we’ve traveled with. Brand-new, shiny suitcases are lovely, for sure. But give me one with a few dings and dents, each with a story behind it.

###

I am on a tight budget and mindful of the need to economize, but lately I’ve been allowing myself the guilty pleasure of eating out at my favorite local restaurants that offer patio service. I am all too aware that weather will soon make it impossible for me to patronize these places, except via take-out, so I’m doing all I can, while I can. The other night I enjoyed a delightful evening at Salute with my daughter and son-in-law. This evening, after a long walk around the West Hartford reservoir on an impossibly gorgeous autumn day, I stopped in at Tisane for a poke bowl and Black Sheep Manhattan.

I have said before and will say again that the COVID-19 crisis, for all the hurt and damage it has caused, has brought out the best in many people, in many ways, and has caused individuals, businesses, and institutions to rethink the way they do everything — often resulting in innovations that are huge improvements over what they’ve replaced. For instance, the QR-code menu. Why would we ever go back to printing, and sharing, physical menus? Better yet: the carry cup, which allows you to take your favorite cocktail home instead of rushing through it at the table. How sensible is THAT?

Sitting on the patio, I was struck by how impossibly important it felt to be out among people; I dined alone, but I exchanged greetings and glances with my fellow diners. My server remembered my drink of choice and had it ready for me in moments. Farmington Avenue was alive with its usual traffic, car and pedestrian, and a woman was shouting into her phone in the parking lot at the Wash Tub laundromat next door. The sun was golden, the air was cool and Burger-King fragrant. It felt magical and important.

And I realized how very much I’d come to take for granted. On my walk, I made a point to stay in the moment, look closely at the leaves and the sky and the water, inhale the scent of pine needles on the path warmed by the sun, enjoy the soft breath of the breeze on my skin. At the restaurant, I paid attention to the flirting couples, the laughing groups of friends, the taste and feel of every mouthful of my food and drink, the sideways glint of the setting sun.

If COVID-19 has taught me anything, it’s the value of life. Every moment, every breath, every sight, every smile, every wrinkle.

Every.

Single.

Thing.

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