Never Too Late

11/01/2022 01:09 AM By Lisa Anderson
Gratitude
Darcee Moreno
Darcee Moreno
Story by Taylor Strickland • Photos by Joshua Jacobs

Never Too Late

Senior Citizen Embarks on a Journey of Self-Discovery

Darcee Moreno has always danced to the beat of her own drum, but it wasn’t until this past year that she became truly comfortable showcasing her unique spirit. “A year ago, my family had dinner for my birthday,” says the 64-year-old Iowa native. “My son asked me what I wanted as a present, and I couldn’t tell him. I said, ‘I don’t know,’ and he said, ‘What do you mean you don’t know? Who are you?’ I started to cry, because I didn’t know who I was. I was overwhelmed. At some point in my life, I had lost me.”

It was this experience that prompted Darcee to begin her year of reflection and self-discovery. “I wanted to break loose and be me,” she shares. Unfortunately, Darcee soon found out that finally getting to know herself meant facing some painful truths.

A Complicated Childhood

“Throughout most of my life, I felt invisible,” Darcee reflects. “I was a tomboy growing up. My brothers and I crossed the corn fields looking for Indian arrows and civil war bullets.

“I feel like I didn’t have a childhood,” Darcee admits. “I’ve always been a parent, a partner, or a grandma. I didn’t know myself.” It’s a hard confession, as Darcee has always taken pride in her position as wife and mother. “My husband was a Vietnam veteran. I am so grateful he took a chance on a single mother and has been part of our 44-year love story.

“I got pregnant when I was 19—my first time. I didn’t even remember it. There was alcohol and a bunch of other stuff involved,” Darcee says hesitantly. “My daughter used to call me ‘little house on the prairie.’ I was never confident in the way I was and had a hard time accepting the things that had happened to me. Life has not always been hunk-dory in my family; my life has not always been rainbows and roses and unicorns.

“I couldn’t acknowledge until a year ago that I had been raped,” Darcee states. “I’ve just now been able to accept it. It’s been hard to recognize that I am not accountable for it, but it doesn’t identify me. It doesn’t define who I am.”

Part of Darcee’s inability to find closure in her past was her complicated upbringing. Her mother was from rural Tennessee and was indoctrinated by the racist ideology that permeated that region. “My mother tried to disown me when I had my daughter,” Darcee says, alluding to her daughter’s Black heritage. “She grew up in a very sad existence.”

There was never any great reconciliation between Darcee and her mother. “She was difficult in life, and she was difficult in death,” Darcee laughs. Nevertheless, Darcee was able to reap some wisdom from the experience. “Don’t let the worst moments in your life define you,” she implores. “There’s joy and kindness all around you.”

“This ring...” she holds up a simple gold band. “This is a rose gold ring that I received in middle school from a missionary, who wore it on his pinky. He was from Guyana, and he could see that I was very vulnerable. He could sense so much more about me than I knew about myself at the time. He told me whenever I was down to look at the ring and think of the obstacles he had overcome. His kindness spoke louder than anything to me. He gave me the address and name of his daughter, and we were pen pals for a long time. Later, I received notification that she died of Jim Jones’ Kool-Aid.” 

“It represents kindness,” she says, glancing down at the ring. “I’ve carried it with me all these years, since I was a little girl. Just like he said, I think of him and his daughter when I look at it.”
mockup

She-nanigans

Darcee has had a long-standing love affair with Mini Coopers. It began in the Seventies, just after the British automotive marquee released its first model. “The inside is built to resemble the cockpit of a plane,” Darcee excitedly explains. “I always wanted one, but the timing was never right.”

It seemed Darcee was destined to never have the car of her dreams, until a chance encounter with a coworker changed her perspective. “There was a lady that I worked with who asked, ‘Why don’t you get one? If you want it, go out and get it.’ She had an aneurysm at work and passed away that next day.

“She was right,” Darcee says. “I thought, ‘What am I waiting for?’” Darcee has owned two Mini Coopers since. Her current model, a black four-door with checkered mirror caps, has an interesting license plate. “I always thought if I had a black Mini I would name her Hawk Eye for the Iowa Hawkeyes, but every time I would get acquainted and try to get the vibe of what she was about, I thought SHE-nanigans. I’m all about having some shenanigans.” SHE-nanigans can be seen zooming around Ocala to various art gatherings.

As for plans for the future, Darcee would like to get more serious about her art. “I want to start delving into my art more and fill my life with light,” she says. “I would never have been able to do it if it weren’t for this past year. I want people to know: It’s never too late to know yourself and who you truly are. Look at me, I’m 64 years old and just coming into myself.”
Read the November 2022 Issue Now
Reilly Arts Center
Sponsored Content