Hulton Archive/Keystone Hulton Archive/Keystone
By Amy Phillips Penn
“All of us every single year, we’re a different person.
I don’t think we’re the same person all our lives.”
— Steven Spielberg


I admire New Year resolutions for their elasticity. We vow to adhere, honor, and respect them. By the end of the year… how many of us even remember them?

I reflect at this time of year.

I no longer have parents, my grandparents passed long ago, and here I am.

I love memories, the ones that instinctively embellish themselves until they are polished and shine on, “Harvest Moon” or not.

Then there are the adages to live by: “Don’t go to sleep angry.”

One of the echoes of the O.J. Simpson trial is that Nicole Brown’s family had a rule: no matter what unloving feelings had reared up that day, as the sun set they told each other that they loved each other.

I recently heard from an old college friend…it had been decades since we were in touch. He told me that I had been a major influence on his becoming a writer. I had no clue, but was touched to hear it.

There are so many people who have impacted my life for better or worse, for yin or for yang, and I aim to say “thank you” often — and before it might be too late.

There have been friends who have allegorically kept me from sliding into a Sisyphean mode. I have caught a few friends who are slipping that way as well.

I love reading yearbooks! Every picture tells a story. I used to make up novellas about girls I would never know. What becomes of them in reality has no bearing on their impact on my eager imagination. There is something about their style, looks, quotes, and more often, sense of mischief and adventure, that seeps into my being.

Role models rule their own runway in haute couture or nondescript.

Mrs. D., my English teacher in high school, terrified most of us, but we agreed that she was a phenomenal teacher.

One school day, the headmistress came into our classroom to tell us that Mrs. D’s husband had died unexpectedly of a heart attack.

When we had our class with her later that morning, she was as pale as her pearls. She stoically taught the class, and we respectfully went along with the illusion that this was a day like any other. She never mentioned her tragedy and we never acknowledged it. A role model was born that day.

I observe the women in my life who are in their eighties or older. They are my role models, both positive, negative, and five stars. Most of them (many are widows) emphatically insist that they do not want to remarry.

They keep busy, taking classes, spending time with friends and family, reading interesting words, and taking in theater that bears interesting discussions. They are role models, whether they intend to be or not.

Full disclosure: I have no desire to be eighty…it’s just so “not me.” But, as the adage rambles, “ask me when and if I’m seventy-nine.”

Our mentors or role models may not even know that we exist.

Jackie Kennedy was the ultimate role model for women of my generation. Her beauty, breeding, composure, and allure of selflessness amidst the most horrific tragedies still reigns as the ultimate stature.

Thank you my role models, past present and unidentified. You are with me, always.


“And now we welcome the New Year. Full of things that have never been.” — Rainer Maria Rilke

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