Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Amalia's Birthday Countdown

On Thursday night, Amalia and her family, including new little brother Nicolas, arrived at Yiayia and Papou's house in Grafton, MA to celebrate Amalia's 4th birthday (which is actually on August 26th.)  Amalia made sure to pack her special dress with a birthday cake on it.  She had asked for a birthday tiara with sparkling lights and a magic wand, which Yiayia managed to find.  Everything had to be in pink, Amalia's favorite color.  Here's Amalia re-discovering the toys she left in Grafton.


On Friday the decorations went up, the pool animals were inflated and Amalia decided to try out the pool along with her Mommy and little brother. 


Amalia showed everyone what she had learned during swimming lessons in Nicaragua in July.

We all got lunch from Bradish's down the road--including their famous fried onion rings and, because it was Friday, they had clam rolls as well.

That night we all ate ate Amalia's Uncle Fred's restaurant, The Westboro House.  Tia Marina, also a birthday girl, had flown in from San Francisco and she patiently cleaned all the tomato sauce off the ravioli so that Amalia would eat it.


Next day Amalia got dressed for the party with all her required accessories: party dress, "I am 4" badge, pink magic wand... crazy straw?


When everybody started coming, Tia Marina, wearing her own birthday tiara, convinced Amalia to put on her bathing suit and jump in the pool.


When it was piñata time Amalia got to take the first whack at the Doc McStuffins piñata because she was the youngest.  But a boy who was older finally broke it open.


Then it was time for the cake--carrot cake from Yummy Mummy in Westboro, with a mermaid on it.


Papi and Papou lit the candles.


And Mommy lifted Amalia so she could blow them out.


Then everybody sat around the pool, eating, and Yiayia held Nicolas.


The older Greek folks stayed inside the rec. room where it was cooler.  Then they all had Greek coffee and Nick's sister Kanta read fortunes in the coffee grounds.


They all loved holding Nicolas, because he smiles at everybody. 


Here he is with his Mommy's godmother, Kiki Economou.


"The goodie bags come at the end," Amalia informed her grandmother.  Here she is checking out the loot in her goodie bag with her Papi.



"It was even better than last year's party!" Amalia told her Grandma.  "Because it was so beautiful."

Then  she went back to Manhattan with her family to get ready for her SECOND 4-years-old birthday party to be held on Sunday in Central Park!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Are Emoticons and Emojis Destroying Our Language?




     If you are on the far side of seventy, as I am, you may not even know what emoticons and Emojis are, but trust me, your grandchildren do.  Emoticons--those little smiley face icons used to show various emotions, and their descendants, Emojis-- icons illustrating almost anything, from Santa Claus to a screaming cat to a pile of excrement-- have become so popular with young people who communicate by texting and e-mailing, that  some Emoji experts converse only through pictographs.  You don’t need to know the other person’s foreign language—or even how to read!  

      But a number of us older folks, including academics, are more than a little  worried about what the popularity of communicating with pictographs is doing  to our language and literature.

     The first emoticon was created in 1982  by Scott E. Fahlman, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University. Pretty much no one had a personal computer or access to the internet except for geeky scientists and scholarly computer experts who communicated with each other on the earliest on-line bulletin boards.  They wanted a way to mark posts that were not meant to be taken seriously, to avoid frequent fire storms from people who didn’t get the joke. At 11:44 a.m. on Sept. 19, 1982, Fahlman hit three keys on his keyboard: a colon, a hyphen and a parenthesis—and the emoticon was born –a sideways happy face. He wrote: “I propose the following character sequence for joke markers  : - ) 

         Fahlman never thought to trademark the Smiley emoticon, and never made a cent from it.  He maintains a sense of humor about his fame as the Father of the Emoticon: “It’s weird, though,” he says, “to think what the first line of my obituary will be.”

     Clearly there was a need for a way of adding emotional resonance to the dry words sent by e-mail, text, i-chat, etc.  Computer programs competed to provide the most, best Smiley emoticons. Plain text emotions turned into animated colored images. 

     While the Smiley emoticon is beloved by texting teenagers, there are many adults out there who become enraged at the sight of that smiling yellow face. “I am deeply offended by them.” Maria McErlane, a British journalist, actress and radio personality told The New York Times in 2011. “If anybody on Facebook sends me a message with a little smiley-frowny face…I will de-friend them...I find it lazy.  Are your words not enough?”

     Despite the dislike of many intellectuals, it seems that nearly everyone who texts uses the Smiley emoticon.  In 2007, Yahoo! surveyed 40,000 Yahoo Messenger users and found that 82% of them used emoticons in their IM conversations; 83 per cent said that “happiness” and “flirting” are the two emotions they express most with emoticons. Fifty-seven per cent said that they would rather tell a “crush” their true feelings with emoticons than words. 

     Emojis are the next generation of emoticons—images that represent emotions and just about everything else, while emoticons are always about emotions and express them with a face.  Emojis are not just Smiley faces but also flags of various countries, musical notes, people, an engagement ring, the Statue of Liberty, a camel, a baby bottle, a green dragon, a butcher knife, a cat making the “Scream” face, even a stack of dollar bills with wings and a pyramid of excrement with eyes and a grin.

     Named for a Japanese word that means  “picture” plus “letter” (moji.)  Emojis began in Japan and the pictographs often are very specific to that country, such as men bowing in apology or a white flower meaning “brilliant homework”.  According to Business Wire, more than seventy per cent of young women in Japan use “Emoji-enabled services” and the Emoji market there exceeds $300 million.

     What do you DO with Emojis? You use them (especially if you’re female and young) to jazz up your e-mail or text messages. Twenty-something Hannah Goldfield wrote in October 12, 2012, in a New Yorker essay called “I Heart Emoji”:

      “As with so many technological tools, texting has far surpassed its original, utilitarian purpose to become, for many, not only the primary form of pragmatic communication…but also an art form...Last month, with the introduction of the iPhone 5 and iOS6, texters got… a set of brand new Emojis.  As one aficionado recently put It, ’It’s like you’re a speaker of some primitive Japanese picture language with only three hundred some odd words and your vocabulary just DOUBLED.”

     Another, presumably young female, (she calls herself “Hot Piece” and writes for a blog called “Total Sorority Move”) reacted to the same news: 

     “WAIT A SECOND!  There are NEW EMOJIS for iOS6 and I can’t even begin to explain my excitement …There’s a family and a bride, which I’ll never use except wishfully, and gay and lesbian couples…And there is a tongue.  Emoji sexting is going to be a thing.” 

     Emojis are so trendy that they were discussed in the January 13, 2013 episode of HBO’s Girls, when no one could understand Shoshanna’s Emoji of a panda next to a gun next to a wrapped gift.

     The best known Emoji artist in the U.S. is data engineer and NYU teacher Fred Benenson who, in 2009, when he was 29, raised over $3,500 on Kickstarter to fund his translation of Moby Dick into Emojis—titled “Emoji Dick”, of course.  He hired helpers through Amazon Mechanical Turks and translated the 200,000-word epic completely into pictures.  In February of 2013, the Library of Congress welcomed it as the first ever Emoji book in its collection.

     Here’s the first sentence, “Call me Ishmael”





     Emoticons and Emojis are a language of pictures that is universally understood, so it surmounts language barriers, sort of like communicating with aliens in a science fiction film by mental telepathy.  If the popularity of emoticons and Emojis continues to grow, and if more classic books like Moby Dick are translated into pictographs, what does that bode for the future of language and the subtleties, skills and eloquence of writers, poets and journalists? 

     I’d have to agree with the opinion of one Ben Smithurst, who writes for Harsh Critic and reacted to an article written by Emoji Dick translator Benenson in Jan. 2013’s Esquire Magazine called “How to Use Emoji for Men.”  Smithurst’s rejoinder was called “Emoji:  Has Esquire Lost its Mind?” He summed up the subject with an illustration of an Egyptian goddess sitting in front of hieroglyphics and the sentence: “Basically, after 5000 years of technological progress, we’ve returned to eking approximate meaning from pictograms.”
##

This post is excerpted from my forthcoming book “The Saga of Smiley, How a Cheerful Icon Changed the World”.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Older Women and the Rules of Society


 

On the occasion of her 80th birthday, Maria Agustina Castillo returned to Sacred Heart in New Orleans, where she attended high school under the strict supervision of the nuns in the early 1950s.


“I feel like, as women, we’re always trying to figure out the rules of the world around us.  We’re raised to listen to the rules of society, as opposed to men, and I sort of realized by the time you figure out the rules, they’ve all changed.  Older women carry so many worlds inside them—both the societies that don’t exist anymore and themselves at a younger age.  I like how they (older women) are kind of uncensored.  People of that age stop worrying about what others think.”

When I read those words last Sunday in an interview in the Worcester Sunday Telegram, they struck me as deeply wise, because they encapsulated many things that I’ve learned in my 75 years.   And I was doubly impressed because that statement came from my 40-year-old daughter, Eleni Gage, who was being interviewed about her newest novel “The Ladies of Managua” by reporterAnn Connery Frantz.

Eleni’s book is about three generations of women in Nicaragua and the secrets and tensions between them.  Her favorite character is the grandmother, Isabella, who was sent as a teenager from her home in Nicaragua to finishing school in New Orleans where she learned things like how to get into a cab properly, how to set a nice table, and how to make fudge.  This character is based on Eleni’s Nicaraguan husband’s grandmother, who is still alive today to dispense advice on proper behavior.  Isabella, in the book, is the mother to Ninexin, a heroine of Nicaragua’s Sandinista revolution. She lost her husband to a bullet, is devoting herself to building a new Nicaragua, and is frequently reminded by her daughter Maria and others, “You couldn’t have been a good revolutionary and a good mother.”  As Eleni commented to the Telegram, “Guilt is hard to escape, especially for women.  You’re expected to do certain things, raise your kids in a certain way.”

Years before Eleni was born, I discovered the difficulties of learning the rules of the game when I married a man from a close-knit Greek family.  I was a very naïve Presbyterian from Minnesota.  Nick and his sisters had suffered starvation and worse during the Greek civil war and eventually escaped in 1949, coming to Worcester, MA to join their father, a cook, whom nine-year-old Nick had never met.  As retribution for engineering the escape of her children from their Communist-held Greek village, Nick’s mother was imprisoned, tortured and executed. (He told her story in the book “Eleni” which was later made into a 1985 film.)

Once I married Nick in September of 1970, I realized I was involved in a game to which I did not know the rules, especially after our son Christos was born ten months later.  We lived in an apartment in Manhattan but would drive nearly every weekend to Worcester, MA, to visit Nick’s elderly father and his four older sisters.  I was always breaking rules without realizing it.  At our son’s baptism, which culminated in Greek line dancing while Nick’s father Christos balanced a glass of Coca Cola on his head, I was wearing a long dress. In church, while my baby was being dunked and tonsured, and holy oil was put on his hair, I would nervously, in the front row, cross my legs.  Every time, my father-in-law would stand up, walk across the church and tell me in a stage whisper that I was not supposed to cross my legs in church. (It was a long dress, people!)  Also, when I took the baby home, while the party was still rollicking, I washed the holy oil out of his hair.  Big mistake!

Nick once told me, in the early years of our marriage, that a Greek wife must always be ready to feed unexpected guests at a moment’s notice.  And I have never been a good cook. But luckily he is.

Over the next 45 years I learned—to cook moussaka, to do Greek dances, to speak Greek.  And I had two daughters, including Eleni—although having a son first, Christos, gave me a major boost in the eyes of the Greeks. (The three requirements Nick spelled out when we decided to get married, were 1. Quit smoking, 2. Name the first two children after his parents and 3. Marry in his Greek Orthodox Church.)

Well I did all that—It helped that The New York Times sent our family to live in Greece for five years while Nick was their correspondent in the Middle East.   Along with our children, I learned the language and the rules of the game.  Years later, back in the U.S., when strange odors emanated from my teenaged son’s closet, I wasn’t surprised to find in the pocket of his church-going suit a bulb of garlic that one aunt had hidden against the evil eye.  It’s now an ordinary occurrence to have my future read in my coffee grounds by one of Nick’s sisters and, when things seem to all be going wrong at once, the kids and I regularly ask another aunt to do an exorcism against the evil eye.

Eleni said in last week’s article that, as she was growing up, I would point out rituals and celebrations to her—the rules of our game. She became so interested in them that she majored in folklore and mythology at Harvard, learning things she has put to good use as an author of three books. (Her second, “Other Waters” was about an Indian psychiatrist in New York who thinks her family has been cursed.) 

It was very gratifying to learn that my early efforts to discover the rules of the game sparked a lifetime’s education and writing career in my daughter. (Well, the Telegram’s reporter referred to me as “Jane” instead of “Joan” but whatever.) The part of Eleni’s statement about older women that gave me the greatest encouragement was: “I like how they (older women) are kind of uncensored. [That’s me, for sure.] “People of that age stop worrying about what others think.” [I hope that will be me, as well!]



Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Photographing New York Shadows

-->

In a recent post called “Reflections on the Windows of Greece” I mentioned that, when I’m traveling, for some reason I’m drawn to photographing windows in Greece, doors in Paris and chairs in Nicaragua. (Don’t know why—it’s not a conscious decision.  I think the doors and windows attract me because I’m always wondering what lies behind them.)

(What I love to photograph best in every country is people, especially children, but that can often get you in trouble.) 

Lately, while walking around Manhattan with a camera in my hand, I’ve become fascinated with the shadows cast by the fire escapes.  (I’ve mentioned before that my good friend Mari Seder, who is an award-winning professional photographer, once told me that sometimes the shadow is the most important part of the photograph.) 

Whenever I drive into Manhattan, when I turn off the FDR Drive onto 96th Street, I notice the building above, uninhabited except for the bodega on the ground floor. If the sun’s out and the shadows are there, I take a picture through the windshield (while I’m stopped, waiting for the light to change of course!)  I love the crazy zigzag patterns of the shadows.

The other day, while walking on Third Avenue in the Seventies, I came upon a block that was a virtual symphony of fire-escape shadows.  Do you like the panoramic photo above or the closer photo below best?


I also tend to photograph architectural details.  In Manhattan, it’s important to look up (except when crossing a street, of course!  Those taxis can be lethal!)  You’ll find all sorts of unexpected treasures, like these.



 Once I started looking for shadows that make pleasing patterns, I found them everywhere.  Here’s  a photo I took while waiting for a check-up in my doctor’s examining room!


And here’s a table and chairs outside near the pool.

When I left Manhattan last Friday, I rode on a LimoLiner bus which traversed Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem.   It was lined with antique buildings with fire escapes. We were moving too fast for good positioning, but I snapped this photo through the window before Manhattan faded into the distance.


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Lunch at Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump


This post, published in April of 2011, became one of my most popular--undoubtedly because of the super-flattering portrait of The Donald (below). Now that Trump has declared his run for the presidency, this post is once again getting lots of hits.
Palm Beach, I’ve noticed, is like Disney World for grown-ups—everything is bigger, better, cleaner, fancier (and more expensive) than in the real world. The latest example came yesterday (Sunday) when we were invited to lunch at the Mar-a-Logo Club by a friend who is a member.  (The cost, I’m told, is $150,000 initiation fee and $75,000 each year after that.)
I didn’t even know that Donald Trump had turned his palatial (think Versailles) private home into a private club in April of 1995.  His presence is still everywhere—from the plaque at the door to the name and crest on the paper hand towels (I stole one) in the gold-encrusted bathrooms and on the welcome mat, to a portrait that is apparently meant to portray The Donald at a younger age in sports clothes.


Everywhere you turn there are golden cherubs, marble statues, parrot and monkey motifs and antique Spanish tiles.  Flowers? Chandeliers? Fountains? Swimming pools? Don’t ask.

 The Mar-a-Lago Estate was built to the specifications of Marjorie Merriweather Post (then Mrs. E. F. Hutton)and completed in 1927. (The name is Latin for “Sea-to-Lake”—it has water views both front and back.)  Three boatloads of Dorian stone were brought from Genoa, Italy. There were 114 rooms in the original villa.  According to a “short history” of the place, “It was Mrs. Post’s plan to bring together many Old -World Features of the Spanish, Venetian and Portuguese styles.”
In January of 1969 the estate was named a “National Historic Site”.  After Mrs. Post died in 1973, she left the place to the federal government for use as a diplomatic/presidential retreat.  It was pretty costly to maintain--so in 1985, it was sold to Donald Trump who used it as a private residence for ten years  (and married his third wife, Melania, there in 2005).  Even his first wife, Ivana, used it for her ill-starred wedding to an Italian 24 years her junior in 2008. 
In April of 1995, it became the Mar-a-Lago Club.

According to the “brief history” available at the desk, Trump has “since built a magnificent swimming pool, an award-winning beauty salon, a world-class spa, one grass and five red-clay championship tennis courts and a remarkable croquet court.…Completed in 2005 is the all-new Donald J. Trump Grand Ballroom—the interior is in a Louis XIV  gold and crystal finish that is one of the finest spaces of its kind in the country.”

We joined our friends for lunch in the outdoor patio (where I ordered lobster quesadillas) and they told us that Jennifer Hudson was on the premises, resting after her recent performance on American Idol, and Joan Rivers had just checked out.
With the Trump name plastered everywhere, it sort of seemed natural that The Donald himself breezed in as we were eating. Wearing a baseball hat and casual clothes, he greeted the several tables of diners, making sure everyone was happy.  I asked about the décor, having been stymied by the mix of Spanish tiles and the Arabic-looking plasterwork.  Was it Moroccan? I asked and he agreed—Moroccan it was!  (At that point neither he nor I had read in the “brief history” that it’s actually “Spanish, Venetian, and Portuguese” all mixed together into a decadent , dazzling, over-the-top mish-mash that would send Mad King Ludwig into a jealous funk. There popped into my memory a French phrase which doesn’t really have an English equivalent.  It was all a bit “de trop.”)

Later in the afternoon we saw Trump depart, along with Melania and her parents, their young son and an older girl who was evidently Tiffany, the daughter he had with second wife Marla Maples.
Throughout the estate, which we explored post-lunch, poking into rooms and peeking behind doors, we kept encountering antique tiles with a Latin motto: “Plus Ultra”, which translates as “Beyond the Ultimate.” This is Mar-a-Lago’s slogan.  As we left, past the gilded cupids and the large brass lions at the gate , I was reminded of another ancient classical slogan carved into the Temple of Apollo at Delphi:   “Midhen Agan”—“Nothing in excess”. 


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Babies on Book Tour

-->

Photo by Eleni Gage.

Guest editor blog today Author (and daughter) Eleni N. Gage, author of The Ladies of Managua, relays her travel fiasco from New York to New Orleans to Miami and back home.  This first appeared on the travel website Fathom.

 I thought I had planned everything perfectly. But one of the things travel and motherhood have in common is that nothing ever goes as planned. When I did the math and confirmed that my novel, The Ladies of Managua, would be published while I was on maternity leave, I realized I'd be able to set up a book tour, something which would have been nearly impossible at any other time, given my full-time job as a magazine editor. For the first third of my three-month leave, I figured, I'd sit at home, recovering, breastfeeding, and staring into the eyes of newborn Nicolas. In the second month, I'd bring him and his three-and-a-half-year-old big sister, Amalia, with me from New York to New Orleans and Miami, both of which are settings for the novel, for book events. Again, perfect timing! I'd forgotten the cardinal rule of parenting: Just when you think you've got this motherhood thing down, someone is guaranteed to poop all over your white jeans.

As my book tour approached, I found myself right back on that parenting roller coaster, hurtling up peaks and down valleys. The new baby was a great eater: peak! But I now had mammoth, grandma-like 32E breasts and a gut that celeb moms such as Heidi Klum, who walked the runway for Victoria's Secret shortly after giving birth, would never recognize: valley. I finally found a dress (that concealed unloved body parts), to wear to every single book event: peak! While at my launch party, it was not wine but someone's breast milk that spilled on said dress: valley. When it came time to leave town for my event in New Orleans, the baby was in a feeding groove, and I felt invincible. Until people began to suggest that maybe I was just insensitive. Nicolas was only six weeks old, and my aunt wondered why I insisted on dragging the kids all over creation.

"Babies aren't easy to come by," she said. "Enjoy yours. Spend time with your kids instead of chasing money." Clearly, she knows nothing about publishing. The book tour was unlikely to bring me vast riches. But I wanted to give the book, which I'd been working on since Amalia was a year old, more visibility and to show my children, especially Amalia, that work you love matters. But was I making their lives more stressful in the bargain?


On the flight from LaGuardia to Miami, I carried Nicolas in a shirt made with a pouch for baby-wearing. Rocked to sleep by the motion and white noise of the plane, he slept the entire flight. Upon arrival, we learned that, after a long illness, my grandfather-in-law had passed away. My husband left for Nicaragua to attend the funeral the next morning and I stayed behind with Nicolas, whose passport had yet to arrive. En route to Miami alone, I tended to a screaming baby all through airport security at New Orleans airport (it lasted about 45 minutes). Older women corrected the way I held the baby, younger women looked horrified, and men averted their eyes in terror. When we arrived at my parents' apartment in Miami after midnight, I was covered in breast milk (mine), urine (the baby's), and sweat (who knows). All I wanted to do was shower and throw my clothes in the laundry. The next morning, I woke up clean but without my engagement and wedding rings. My mother and I tore up the house, the beds, and the washing machine looking for them. Then I remembered separating the trash from the recycling in a sleep-deprived haze the night before. My mom, bless her heart, went through the garbage and found my rings stuck to a dirty diaper. Exhausted and filthy, I had thrown out my most valuable pieces of jewelry (both practically and sentimentally).

The next day, after my final reading took place at my favorite independent bookstore, I signed books while Amalia drew on paper napkins with the Sharpies the store had provided. As I spoke to the woman in front of me, Amalia turned to the stranger behind her and said, "I'm drawing pictures for my mommy because I'm proud of her. She did a REALLY good job." It was the best moment of my book tour. The events were nice, but the highlights of the trip came from being on the road with my kids, whether we were schmoozing tattooed Cajuns in a French Quarter courtyard, feeding fish in the fountains of Miami Beach's Lincoln Road, or dabbing Nicolas's tiny feet in the ocean for the first time. And even though Amalia threw up on me during the eleven-minute drive to Miami International Airport on the way home and I caught a bug on the flight and was feverish for two days afterwards, I'd do it all over again.

Which reminds me of the second cardinal rule of parenting: Traveling with kids is never easy, but it's almost always worth the pain.




Monday, July 13, 2015

Are You Happiest at Age 23 and 69 and Gloomiest at 55?

Since this is a month of family birthdays for the Gage family, I'm re-posting this from two years ago. Would love to hear your opinion of these ratings for happiness at certain ages. I'm coming up on 75 and think that things just keep getting better (cuz I have a new grandchild!)

Yesterday in the local paper I read an essay by syndicated columnist Tom Purcell saying that a study published by the Center for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, as reported in the Daily Mail, had determined that happiness among humans peaks at age 23, tanks at 55 and then peaks again at 69.
Purcell said, “The findings make sense to me”, because “at 23 you are…confident your future includes great riches and fame, a lovely wife and a perfect family and home.  As you move along, though, it doesn’t take long for the disappointments to begin piling up.”
Purcell mulled on each of the decades he had passed, as reality and expectations clashed.  “And then you are 50.  Good God, a half century?…Your mistakes and regrets come into sharp focus…You worry about the future more than you ever have.” 
I learned, at the end of his essay, that Purcell is about 51. “I still have four years to reach my peak crankiness,” he concluded.
I mentioned the study’s findings to daughter Eleni, who is presently 38, and she disputed the idea that  23 is one of the happiest ages, pointing out that it’s when life can be most challenging—you’re looking for a job, a career, a life partner. Everything is up in the air and you’re suddenly faced with all sorts of worries and responsibilities you didn’t have before.
I  searched to find out more about the study, which I learned was conducted on 23,161 Germans between the ages of 17 and 85, and led by Princeton researcher Hannes Schwandt for the London School of Economics.   He cited  “unmet aspirations which are painfully felt in midlife but beneficially abandoned later in life.”  But at around age 60, he learned, happiness began to steadily increase as people move beyond past regrets and onto a level of acceptance.
The study did find, however, that after age 70, happiness again starts to decline.
Personally, I remember age 23, just out of graduate school and working at my first job, as being stressful and pretty depressing.  At thirty I was newly wed and I spent the next decade having babies and moving overseas, which means that I pretty much missed the 1970’s.
To tell you the truth, I can’t remember being 55—that was in 1996—but I think it was a pretty good time of life. 
Not long ago I was asked to contribute an essay for a book which is being published in the fall called “70 Things to Do When You Turn 70”. 
I titled my contribution “Musing on the Joys of Cronehood” (naturally!) and said in part: “I used to think the best time of life was when your children are young and future triumphs are still possible.  But now I think that, if you’re a woman and lucky enough to remain in good health, your cronehood – after 60—is the best era, free of the drama, responsibilities, worries and the insecurities of youth….When women reach that milestone, they often channel the creative energy they spent on home, children and jobs into some long-hidden passion….They allow themselves to try the things they’d always dreamed of but never had time to do.”
So yes, I’d say that right now, age 72, is one of the happiest times of my life—enjoying travel and some “bucket list” experiences (which of course I record here as they happen).  High among them is the joy of hanging out with a 2-year-old first grandchild who is showing me how to look at everything with awe, as if for the first time.
Of course being healthy is critical to being happy at this age. Every day I say a prayer of thanks that I can still climb stairs and carry my own suitcase--though not as easily as before—because many of my friends are not so lucky.  But I think even those who are weathering hip and knee replacements and all the other hard knocks that old age has in store would still rate their happiness level as pretty high, because by now we’ve made peace with the disappointments and unrealized dreams of our younger selves.
.