When I came into Park City in 1979, looking for a house to rent for myself, my six-year-old girl and eight-year-old boy, I met Mardi. She was in real estate, which was much more about rentals in those days than actually selling homes or lots. She made a few calls from the floppy couch in the funny little house at the bottom of Main Street that served as her office.
"I don't know," she told the caller. "Let me check." She told me to slip off my shoes. And I did. She told me to lift up the soles of my feet to her. And I did. "Yep," she replied to the voice on the other end of the phone, "she has clean feet!"
And they rented me the log house.
To this day, when I see Mardi in her wheelchair, getting on and off the Park City senior bus, she'll give out a shout: "How ya doin', Clean Feet!" And I always smile at the memory of the way we were.
A few weeks ago I was talking to someone I have known just as long. We spoke about someone who was building a second home in St George that we both suspected would turn into a permanent residence.
"Do you ever think of moving someplace else?" she asked. And said I had thought of it. Do I have one more move in me after all these years? Would I want to live on an island in the San Juans where I had spent some memorable vacations? Or in the desert where I seemed to drift to with enough free days? Or perhaps near the ocean near where I grew up outside of San Francisco?
I said I had pretty much decided I wanted to stay put and just grow old with the people I had spent more than half my life with, in Park City. Then I caught myself. "Hell," I said, "I am growing old with all those people." And as Mark Twain might say, given the option in the whole aging process, it beats the alternative.
A few months ago a man I have known for decades (who is happily married and I love his wife, so don't go down that road) turned to me after we had a discussion about local politics, recent and past, and he said, "Damn, I hope I get the bed next to yours in the old folks' home. We could tell stories for hours." It was the kind of compliment you have to be of a certain age to appreciate.
I'm not packing any bags to move in there yet. There is a still a generation alive ahead of me. But I can see the future. And I rather like seeing it, from here.
Yes, there are signs that my body is betraying me gently. I need more lotion on my dry skin. More aspirin to ease the joints along in the day. More naps on the weekends. But overall, I'm pretty happy with my abilities and my body is humming right along. Sure, I lose my keys once a week, but I've noticed my younger staff members do also. We all seem to forget words or sentences or names of people or trees. We cannot process, even if we can store, all the information that comes at us on any given day.
But there moments, odd moments I struggle with. Sometimes in the market or the park I want to reach over and just grab a baby and have the baby nuzzle my neck. I just want a few moments of that baby sweetness back.
But I am not filled with regrets. Except for not buying that 57 T-Bird, totally restored, for $5,000 a few years – OK maybe a couple of decades – ago. I really belonged in that car.
I will attend another memorial service this weekend for someone who was part of the very small tribe who came to Park City in the late '70s/early '80s and who worked hard to realize a dream and make the town a better place. He helped create a voice for Park City to talk to itself, every day, all day long. Nights, too. He gave the town new and old music to listen to and we woke up his voice. We had a strange connection when we discovered his girlfriend was also seeing my boyfriend. We commiserated but never co-joined. Our hearts were broken and we moved on but we stayed.
Community isn't something you study to death and write reports about and then stick them on a shelf for no one to read. Community is living together for years and years, taking care of one another in ways that are mostly small. Tossing the paper from someone's driveway up to the front porch on a snowy morning. Taking the bread/cookies/wine over to someone who needs cheering up. Dropping a note, yes, in cursive, to thank someone for a kindness. Borrowing a tool, sharing seeds, stopping on a walk and settling on a porch for hours. By themselves, none of these seem like much. Added together, they are a lifetime.
I will raise a glass to Dan on Saturday, and to all the ghosts who were around when I met Dan. I will raise another on Sunday, for the good fortune all those years ago to have Clean Feet, when they counted the most. And I will be grateful, ever so grateful, for yet another Sunday in the Park ...
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the organization that provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.