HALLIE EPHRON: In my new book, THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN, one of the two main characters is a 91-year-old woman. When I tell people this, they ask how can you write a character who is so old?
She's based loosely on my mother-in-law, Freda Touger. Freda died when she was 91, a few days after taking one of her routine subway rides from Brooklyn to Manhattan and walking from Lincoln Center to the Donnell Library where there were free events for seniors. She missed the friends who used to go with her and who had mostly faded from her life.
Did she feel old? Sure she had aches and pains and had less patience for foolishness, but she said she felt basically like the same person she was when she was 8, or 28, or 58. What had changed, she said, was that time seemed to pass much more quickly.
I know just what she meant by feeling like I'm the same person (that's me at 8), and that surprise of looking in the mirror and finding that I'm not.
So here's my question. Do you feel you're changing or are you, too, the same person you were when you were eight?
ROSEMARY HARRIS: First off, bless Freda for still taking the subway and wanting to go out at her age. We all should be so active and engaged.
Two answers ( I always hate it when my husband does this, so either I've picked it up from him or there really are at least two answers to every question.) In many way I'm still the same person I was at sixteen. Scary, since most sixteen year olds aren't known for their common sense. Wisdom, good judgment, etc. I will still talk to strangers, dance around the house and start singing in elevators when properly motivated.
I'm probably most like me at thirty. Wise, dignified. Aren't I?
LUCY BURDETTE: Where's the second answer Ro, did I miss it?
Time definitely flies by at this age, that much is certain. But in many ways, I too feel like the person I was at thirty. (Let's not even talk about those teenage years--such agony!)
You know what's changed the most? My time schedule. I chose my classes in college according to how late they allowed me to sleep in--because I was up until one or two in the morning. (Until I reached organic chemistry, where 8 am was the only option.) Now the only reason I'd be up at 2 am would be a trip to bathroom:).
ROSEMARY: Ah yes, the second answer. No. Every day and every way I'm learning more and hopefully turning into a better person.
RHYS BOWEN: I got an email from one of my fans saying"I just saw your photo and until then I thought you were 21 like Lady Georgie." I was flattered that I'd created a twenty one year old so convincingly, but when I thought about it, I still do feel that I'm twenty one.
I have to remind myself not to jump over that chain across the track. But I still swing on swings, slide down the slide and generally behave as if I'm still five. Sometimes I look in the mirror and wonder who put my grandmother's photo there. But time has speeded up. It was Christmas, and now it's Easter and the year is rushing toward next year. And I don't know how to slow it down....
DEBORAH CROMBIE: One of the many reasons I so loved Hallie's new book, THERE WAS AN OLD WOMAN, was her portrayal of Mina, the title character. Mina is ninety-one, but she doesn't feel old.
Well, neither do I, although I have a bit to go before I reach ninety-one. Since I was a child I've wondered if there was a certain point when you began to feel "old." In some ways, I think I feel younger than I did in my thirties. Those were the "mum" years, but once your children are grown there's a sense of liberation. I still feel a tremendous sense of enthusiasm about learning new things, and doing new things.
But there is also that sense of time speeding up, of knowing there are going to be limits to your experience. That's bittersweet.
P.S., Lucy, my body clock hasn't changed. Maybe I have being an "early bird" to look forward to!
JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: Why do we have the sensation that time speeds by as you grow older? Is it because once you're settled into your adult life, the year-to-year touchstones are the same? I mean, my family has had basically the same Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving every year for the past decade. We do many of the same things each summer, year after year.
Or is it because there are so many more memories to access? When you're twenty, you have maybe fifteen springs you can recall. When you're sixty... Perhaps whenn we say, "It's spring again? So soon?" it's because we can so readily envision last spring, and the spring before, and the spring before.
Or maybe, you know, time really DOES speed up. We need a physicist to look into this!
So, Hallie's question: I've changed for the better as I've grown older (my knees excepted.) I feel much more confident, much more comfortable with stating my mind and setting my own needs front and center. That sounds kind of selfish, but all of you know that when you're a young woman, being unequivocally opinionated and putting yourself first is almost unthinkable!
I look forward to becoming a "I-can't-believe-she-just-said-that" old broad. At the same time, in my head? I'm somewhere in my thirties. The weather warms up and I get the urge to strap on the shoes and go running, and I have to remind myself, no, I can't do that anymore.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Time clearly speeds up. Summer used to be forever. A kid could be--"bored." When was the last time you were "bored"? I can't even imagine.
In college, we had forever. (And that t-shirt says "Sigma Chi. THAT was a long time ago.)
I'm in the second half of my life, my husband too. I honestly can't think about it. There used to be "all the time in the world." Now--that feels short. So I dont think about it. Much.
How I'm different? I'm careful with people. I think--five years from now, a week from now--will that matter? If not.. then, so what.
I got hit with the physical part when I decided to take a ballet class several years ago. After all, it's like riding a bike, right? (Another thing I cannot do.) Anyway, ballet. My body simply would not do it. I could envision it, I could imagine it, but I could not do it. Game over.
The good news--I'm a little more confident. A little. But time is FLYING by.
HALLIE: So how about the rest of you? Do you feel as if time is ganging up on you or flying past?