My Silver-Haired Rosie

rosie-pic

Friday 5pm.

With the dull pangs of an aching head and the accompanying sensitivity to light and noise, there was nothing more I wanted than to go home after what seemed like a longer than normal work-week. I dreamed of my cozy bed. But as luck would have it I was due elsewhere—the Chelsea apartment of my adopted grandmother where I would be helping her with a New York City style garage sale—what we would call an apartment sale. You can imagine my thrill when I got the call requesting my presence for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, on the very weekend I was supposed to be in Delaware visiting a friend I haven’t seen in over a year. Loads of fun!

But I couldn’t say no. This adopted grandmother Rosie is an old Armenian friend of my mother’s. She’s fourteen years my mother’s senior, but back in the day, right here in NYC, they were the best of friends. And when my parents relocated from New York to Florida, Rosie, unmarried and childless, tagged along for the car ride. And since those were the days when child safety amounted to little more than “hold on tight”, I, then a mere three months, sat in her lap the whole ride down. So even Rosie and I go way back.

My mother always says to expect the worst in situations and be pleasantly surprised when things turn out better. I forget this most often, but always find myself thinking, “Yep, she was right.” So garage sale weekend arrived and there I was in the living room amidst the tables of vases and teacups galore, mostly early 20th century pieces leftover from the store Rosie owned in the 80s, just down Eighth Avenue off 18th Street. When one of the looky-loos had a question I would do the talking. Rosie was more frail than I’d seen her in some time, and on top of that aggravated by the fact that her precious belongings were, to these people, seen as nothing more than a hodgepodge of tchotckes. I stood up and did my job, playing the part of granddaughter, even though not a drop of blood connected us.

In between the bargaining, Rosie and the bevy of silver-haired shoppers would rattle off tidbits of their lives—how long they’d lived in the city, how long in the building, the jobs they had when they were my age. And I sat fascinated, picturing the days when they were my age, dressing up any time they went out with fancy hats and cherry red lipstick, the social lives they had, the hairdos. And I found myself trying to imagine being one of them…fifty years from now. How would I be?

In the middle of picturing my own perfectly coiffed silver hairdo, I heard mumbles of a conversation en francais, and I, a Francophile, week as I may be, lit up. Soon Rosie and two others were off in chat about the ‘tres jolie’ doll collection that stood behind glass in the corner and the mink coat one woman found at another apartment sale. They carried on and on as if we were in our own Paris apartment overlooking Montmartre. And I did my best to catch every word, savoring the sweet song that played between them.

And then there was the visit. Didrich and Carine. Didrich is Rosie’s husband of whom I’d heard about for years but had never met. He had been a friend of a friend of Rosie’s back in the 80s, a gay transplant from Denmark; tall, handsome, charismatic…and a guy who needed a Green Card. Carine, who I had met several times before, was the other adopted granddaughter. It was fate that she and Rosie had found one another—of all places sitting side-by-side on a plane ride from California years before. After it was discovered that she too was Armenian, the two of them hit if off and thus the adoption ensued.

For the next two hours I sat, again mesmerized by our guests, the only silver-haired one in the room now Rosie. Carine entertained us with outrageous tales from her life as a makeup artist to the stars—divas from reality TV, pop sensations and gazillionaire surgeons. And then to continue the fun, Didrich started a debate about the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes marriage. Though she spoke very little, I spied a twinkle in Rosie’s eyes as she sat there with these three she loved; three she’d found along the way since coming to New York decades before. And I actually felt happy to be one of them.

So, as usual, my mother was right.  

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