Oldness is relative, of course.
Sometimes I want to join in the chorus of “Kids today!” while waving my invisible cane at youngsters wearing their Nirvana T-shirts and what-not. Remembering my high school journal entries written on the day Kurt Cobain died makes me feel old. Trapeze show weekends make me feel young, though the day after a trapeze show weekend makes me feel old. Riding my bike makes me feel young. Rediscovering favorite movies and books with my son makes me feel young. The start of each new school year makes me feel old.
There’s a part of me that, no matter my age, stays old.
This is my grandmother.
My grandmother was the real deal—a 1920s flapper and dance instructor who taught the Charleston while living in Charleston. My dad, a long-time university professor, was almost in his mid-50s when I was born. Surprise!
So, I grew up with a shorter distance to Ye Olden Times than most of my age cohort, which surely influenced my upbringing and everything else. At the risk of getting too precious about this sort of thing (too late?), I will share that some of my childhood favorite leading men were Jimmy Stewart and Dick Van Dyke. (Not to worry—my mother, who was significantly younger than my dad, balanced things out with a healthy appreciation for early 80s synth pop and new wave. That might be another blog post. For now, let’s just say that not everyone’s mom showed up for volunteer lunchroom duty dressed up like Boy George with a bunch of Swatch watches on each arm. Well, maybe yours did, but she wasn’t at my elementary school.)
Anyway, I self-identify as a progressive and liberal and all that, but somehow I still ended up being the kind of person who says “Oh, crumbs!” and dresses like a very unfashionable grandpa. I think a preference for old cardigans and plaid pants is in my DNA. But sometimes…I like to pay tribute to my inner grandma.
I love these pictures because they make me think of Emily, and also because I almost don’t recognize ourselves in them. It looks like they were taken a long time ago, and the women in those pictures maybe knew my grandmother—maybe danced with her—and then I remember: that’s us. Young and old.