or, My Late Life Adventure
by Mary Marks
I was always a rebel, fighting against the “old order” from the time I was a teenager in the early sixties until now. There’s just something about institutions and authority that breeds mistrust in my very depths. My poor family and circle of friends routinely expressed shock, dismay and disapproval at my radical choices in life. I was a risk-taker and unfortunately, I often lost.
I began life as a polio survivor and fourth child of five in an extremely disadvantaged single parent family. I worked my way through UCLA to earn an undergraduate degree in anthropology; a wonderfully enlightening, but a not-so-very-useful field of study. During that time, I also got married, had a child, and got divorced.
I worked for a while, tried marriage a couple more times, had a couple more children and still ended up as a single parent. Yet I somehow persevered, returned to school and earned a master’s degree in public administration, a very useful field of study which opened the door to a good job at my alma mater.
Unfortunately, the late effects of polio combined with the accumulated stresses of my life’s journey rendered me too disabled to work. So, I reluctantly retired when I was in my late forties. By that time, my children had all left the nest and my early retirement held the promise of serene, uncomplicated days of doing whatever I chose to do – or doing nothing at all.
Much to the concern and dismay of family and friends, instead of staying at home and trying to recover, I decided to live abroad. Why not? Nobody knew how many years I had left of my strength and mobility. What if that was my last chance to do something I’d always dreamed of? So once again ignoring the warnings and admonishments of those well-meaning family and friends, I rented an apartment in Jerusalem for a year and discovered a whole new perspective on the world.
When I returned to the US, I settled in to live a quiet life, devoting myself to creating beautiful fabric art in the form of quiltmaking. At the same time, I kept a little journal, writing about each quilt and what it meant to me. After twelve years, I realized that I had accumulated a kind of memoir expressed in fabric and in writing. I was, by that time, in my early sixties.
I enrolled in writing workshops in the UCLA extension program with the intent of crafting a memoir from my journal. After all, I had led (I thought) a rather unconventional if not extraordinary life. Therefore, nobody should’ve been surprised when I ultimately found my voice in writing murder mysteries, of all things.
What did surprise people (most of all me) was that I found a literary agent who wanted to represent me, and she found a publisher who wanted to publish my stories. So at the age of seventy, my first quilting mystery, Forget Me Knot, was published to great reviews. Now I am seventy-five, and my sixth book, Knot My Sister’s Keeper, has just been released. My books are in the libraries of several different countries, and I have heard from wonderful readers from as far away as Israel, Australia and South Africa.
When I was seventy-three, I dyed my hair turquoise and purple because I just got tired of the gray. On my seventy-fourth birthday, one of my teenaged granddaughters took me to get my nose pierced. Both the vivid hair and the sparkle in my nostril are things that I reasoned an eccentric writer of murder mysteries ought to be allowed to do. This year I celebrated my seventy-fifth birthday with my new fiancé.
I’m sure my friends and family are holding their collective breath wondering what the heck I’m going to do next! Me? I’m loving life.