Sunday, November 15, 2009

My Past Lives

Now that I'm slipping into the regrets age I'm starting to understand certain mystical obsessions such as the Shirley MacLaine-style fascination with past life regression, where someone with more money than they need finds someone with an enterprising way to help relieve them of some of that money by helping them "remember" a past life - always a romantic one involving royalty or beauty - in which she relives the time when she was a prince, a knight of the round table, or a sultan's favorite concubine.

I'm guessing that "remembering" past lives is a way to enjoy more life than you have been allotted. More and different. Once you feel the slightest tingle of the body's long downhill slide, once you realize you are too old, with too many obligations, to move to Scotland to learn to play the drum and develop a passable brogue, once you are past the age of admittance into the Peace Corps, once you realize the window of opportunity to become an Olympic ski jumper or a travel writer has closed, and you hear this idea that you may have lived lives much more exciting and glamorous, it must be very tempting to believe.

The trouble with past lives is that most have been lived before indoor plumbing, central heating, modern feminine hygiene products, and the perfection of chocolate.

However, if I had lived past lives these are the ones I would have liked to live:

European royalty before that ugly head-lopping-off period. Aside from the funk created by the twice-yearly bath (which seems to dog most romantically historical times), this seems to be good living. Nice clothes, decent meals, sitting for portraits, dancing courtly dances, wearing silly wigs...not bad. Maybe the Austrian court during the Mozart period, but only if he really giggled like Tom Hulce.

Scottish castle dweller some time between one horde or the other showing up to claim it for themselves. Everybody wanted Scotland because everybody talked so adorably. I would just want to make sure I was rich enough to afford plenty of warm clothes and firewood. And I would want my own sheep.

Yes, royalty. I'm afraid royalty was where it was at, pre-industrial revolution. Everybody else had it pretty crap. Everybody else was lucky to be less hungry, filthy and disease-ridden than their dead neighbor.

Maybe Lincoln's secretary. He doesn't get killed or stabbed or anything does he? I've never thought of what it would be like to be a dude, but to sit in on Lincoln's administration, I would consider it. Mary Todd Lincoln is definitely out. I'm not keen on either shopping or mourning.

I would kind of (kind of) like to be a pioneer, if only to have acres and acres of primeval Oregon wilderness to myself. It must have been awesome. And really, really difficult. But imagine, after crossing the mountains and deserts, finally getting to stick your flag (okay, your walking stick with your last remaining scrap of calico drooping from it) into an enormous piece of gorgeous land overlooking the Pacific, and saying "MINE!" Sorry, Chinook Indians. Dammit, I just ruined my past life.

Oh, wait. I've got it. A pre-Captain Cook Hawaiian Wahini. Tropical breezes. Dancing the hula (I can still do a passable hula from lessons I took as a kid in Vernonia - don't ask, long story), eating tropical food, swimming in tropical seas and trying to get fat, cause that's what all the fellas were into. Oh, bingo.

Those are the memories I'd like to have. What about you?


cpt a said...

Maybe a Roman soldier. But not the gay Spartan kind like in 300. Or the Caligula kind. OK maybe not a Roman at all.

Maybe a prehistoric cave man. But not the Geico commercial kind. Maybe more like the dudes in the Raquel Welch cave man movie. Or the Encino Man kind of cave man. No.

OK, I like your pre-Captain Cook Hawaiian Island idea. Tropical breezes, eating coconuts and fresh fish, surfing all day long. Hey, the Island Royalty were the best surfers. I bet I could still paddle into a good size wave. Nice.

hedera said...

Medieval history, especially English medieval history, is kind of a hobby of mine. The best description of day-to-day life in a noble's castle that I've ever found, not a castle anywhere near an urban center but way off on the northwest coast of the island (remember, England is an island), is a novel called Red Adam's Lady, by Grace Ingram. If you want a good picture what it was like to live in a place where the toilet was a hole in the castle wall (yes, it was), and only basic manners kept your cook from relieving himself into the fire where the roast was cooking, this is the book for you - it's also quite funny and has a very good plot, and a heroine you can appreciate.

hedera said...

But the odds are very high that if any of us had a past life, we were the scrubwoman. Or the guy mucking out the stable. Trust me, that's where we were.