Third row, Picadilly Theatre, London, England, 1973. I'll never forget it. She was amazing.
After, of course, she became a staple for television viewers. Her theatrical performances were captured on PBS; her famed "Jessica Fletcher" character still lives on in reruns every day on cable. And of course her movies, including "Gaslight" and "The Manchurian Candidate," where she played the bone-chilling mother of all mothers, are frequently caught on movie channels.
I saw the Lady-Who-Looked-Like-Angela-Lansbury today in the grocery store. It was a startling resemblance of the Angela circa "Murder She Wrote." (Angela is now pushing 90 and I suspect that while she is still a bundle of energy, as witnessed by those who saw her as Madame Arcati in "Blithe Spirit" this past spring can attest, she's probably aged a bit.)
She was a lovely woman, one who was getting ready to make her own window washing cleaner with alcohol, vinegar and dish soap. She spoke with the authority and grace of a woman who not only had done this before and was convinced it was a surefire method but also with the friendly openness our friend Angela always displayed.
But the thing I noticed most about the Lady-Who-Looked-Like-Angela-Lansbury wasn't just the resemblance, her warm manner or even her cleaning recipe. It was her beautiful coat. It was a creamy confection, slightly swingy but not flashy, with a low-key collar and lovely buttons. I'm not sure of the fabric but it gave the impression of a soft, lightweight cashmere or light wool. It was August 25.
Our weather team promises us that by the end of the week it will be hot again, perhaps even as you read this. But today and yesterday have been cold by Michigan-in-August standards, gloomy with heavy banks of clouds above threatening but not delivering raindrops, and more than a little breezy.
It is a reminder, a grim reminder, that this perfect summer will not last forever.
I have been trying to wring every glorious moment out of summer that I can. It's been the loveliest I can remember with plenty of sunny days, temperatures between a temperate 75 and warm low-80s. Only once or twice I acknowledged that if I had air, I would turn it on but the fan was fine and humidity passed.
It has been a summer of days at the lake, road trips, thriving flowers in my garden and planters. It has been a time to read good books by the pool and then jump in and swim lap after lap, more and more each time.
It has been a time to feel strong.
I felt strong in the pool the other day. When I got out of the pool, I felt as though I could have gone on. And on. The sun was high and a few white puffy clouds added interest to the expansive blue sky. I was able to swim with both arms for the first time this summer, getting the "go ahead and stop if it's too much" permission from the physical therapist who had been working my shoulder for the past eight weeks. I felt powerful as I did my backstroke and joyful and so very grateful as I looked up into the glorious sky, not minding at all the droplets of water that splashed on my face with each stroke.
It has been a summer of dinners on the porch or Rick's patio, chicken and burgers, hot dogs and pork chops, the occasional steak, all grilled to perfection over charcoal and served up with good conversation.
It has been a summer of seeing old friends -- those I've known since high school and college. A time to create art, to try new things.
And it is going by all too fast.
These two days have served as a cruel reminder that while summer may bounce back to its warm, wonderful self, it won't stay forever. The days are already shorter and soon enough we'll see the first hints of autumn. Perhaps I already have -- there were a few yellow leaves floating in the pool the last time I was there. I'm sure there will be more before it closes for the season. Summer's sweet cherries, blueberries and raspberries will be replaced by crisp tart apples.
When I cut through the campus to get to my physical therapy appointments, I will be confronted with the traffic-clueless students who feel impervious to danger. In a few weeks, the neighbor children will be in school. And yes, last night there was an extra quilt on my bed.
After I saw the Lady-Who-Looked-Like-Angela-Lansbury, I went home and put on a jacket before going to my next appointment. I'd been a little chilled in my long-sleeved shirt and vest. (And to be honest, even with the jacket it was a little cool!). I tried to resist but I couldn't. After all, Jessica Fletcher was a smart one. I think her doppelganger probably was too!