I buried my face in a magenta peony, inhaled, and exhaled disappointment. It had less scent than paper. I almost didn't bother with the white peonies, but I paused to dip my nose to a flower and sniffed. Heaven! I buried my whole face in the blossom, silky petals caressing my face. Time stopped as long as I was with the peonies. They take me back to childhood with one whiff and the sound of a bumblebee.
Sometimes I think it's impossible to explain why the Glen where I grew up was a different kind of place. There was a luxury of living by extremely wealthy people while Mom yelled about not having enough money to give Kool-Aid to the neighbors. I've written about being lonely in the woods, but maybe not much about walking alongside a billionaire's golf cart as we inspected his peonies?
Since I didn't have kids to play with, I hung out with old people. I drank tea and ate cookies with widows. I decided early on that extreme wealth is a lonely business and I didn't want that much money, or I'd never tell anyone if I got it. (The older I get, the more I'm leaning toward the latter.)
The old people got me as I came, which was generally a bit muddy. Yet, they let me sit on their Louis the something chairs and draped dainty lace napkins on my lap. I never ate more than 2 cookies because I learned that more than 2 was gauche. Pretending to be wealthy-compatible demanded a lot of restraint.
I'd go home, catch dinner, clean fish, weed the garden, wash dishes, etc., etc., etc. and feel somewhat glad that I grew up more regular than the widows who probably never wiggled their toes in river mud. The old man with the golf cart talked about "his" peonies, and how he had planned his garden, but admitted that he'd never planted anything himself. He had a "man" who took care of the dirty work. That man rolled his eyes behind the millionaire's back.
This week I read Cleveland in the Gilded Age. I learned the Rockefellers had a summer estate at the end of my current street. From the mid 1800s through the mid 1900s, Cleveland had more millionaires than anywhere else. It shows in beautiful old buildings, a world-renowned orchestra, art museum, Cleveland Clinic, and thousands of other ways. Where I grew up was right by their summer estates.
I feel fortunate to enjoy the beauty the millionaires created -- and often feel more fortunate than them for being able to actually live in the world with regular people where people either like me or not based on who I am instead of what they might get out of me. A billionaire once sniffed about his best friend who always had his hand out. "But he's a millionaire!" I said. "Yeah, but not very many millions, and he always expects me to pay" he answered. This same billionaire was proud of his pre-nup that basically bought his young wife's commitment for his lifetime. That's a lonely life.
I smelled the peonies and felt happy. I read the book, and felt glad to be me instead of them. I think about current events and wonder about our m/billionaire politicians and can only hope for the best while remembering that those kinds of people can't even respect their friends so how can they respect the rest of us?