A good anthology is like a box of candy — you can prolong the pleasure if you pick out one a day, savor it, and close the lid until the next day. That's the best way to enjoy the charming personal essays, poems, and interviews in the collection, In the Fullness of Time: 32 Women on Life after 50, edited by Emily W. Upham and Linda Gravenson.
The book had me, as every book should, from the very first line in the preface by Upham: "Once upon a time, when I was a young and beautiful princess of twenty.…" A lot of us baby boomer women remember that 20-something princess. She had power over men, got what she wanted with a toss of her hair, could march into any job interview and get it, was wild, fearless, and indestructible. That young woman is no longer smiling back at us in the mirror. She's been replaced, not by her mother, but by her grandmother. Ouch.
If you're over 50 and female, with no doubt your own ambivalent and conflicting feelings about aging, you too may open this book with slight trepidation, expecting stories of grief, regret, loss, and resignation. What a delightful surprise to discover that one woman's chapter is funnier, wiser, and more memorable than the next. The editors did an excellent job compiling a diverse range of subjects and voices, from legendary actresses Edna O'Brien and Claire Bloom, to well-known poets and authors such as Ntozake Shange, Gail Godwin, and Laurie Stone.
For example, writer Martha Fay tells a witty, sweet story about losing her first adult tooth at age 59 1/2. She recounts the trials of enduring an uncomfortable prosthetic tooth, then an embarrassing toothless period, before receiving, finally, a shiny new (and expensive) porcelain implant. Her takeaway? This was merely a gentle preview of greater indignities to come.