Sunday, July 1, 2007

Growing Old or Getting History

I have reached the age of graying hair, wrinkles (just a few around the eyes) and polite young people calling me ‘ma’am.’ I never thought I would hate polite. I do. For the longest time I would look over my shoulder, expecting to see my mother-in-law when someone respectfully called me Mrs. Goldsmith. Who me? No, really, I’m just Dawn. It had nothing to do with informality and everything to do with age. I was not ready to accept the matron title and the persona that went with it.

A couple years ago, I reluctantly admitted, there is now a bigger percentage of people younger than me, than older than me. It becomes more difficult to carry on conversations with nubile little check out clerks when I realize that my driver’s license is older than they are! School teachers look like students, I met the new Domestic Court Judge — I remember when he was born. I remember when he attended high school and played football with my sons and when he told his father, the farmer, that he wanted to go to law school. The kid in front of me in line at the grocery — he’s the new Methodist minister. That little girl is his wife!

These young faces surround me. At work I see a new face across from my desk and I realize it is a new coworker. He quickly supplies personal information. Age, 21. College graduate, all of three months. He’s getting married in six months. And I observe he probably doesn’t shave more than once a week. And he looks at me observing that, “you’re old enough to be my mother!” I really don’t like this kid.

Yet, I admire them for their fortitude. I wouldn’t want to be 21 again. I, for all my griping, like being where I am in life. The gray hair and wrinkles not withstanding, I like the wisdom that comes with age. I like knowing how it feels to be this age and I like knowing that I watched the moon landing on live TV and listened to Kennedy’s inaugural address and even saw the geyser, Old Faithful, in Yosemite while it was still so faithfully erupting. I saw this country before freeways. I know what it means to heat water on the stove and take Saturday night baths. I watched Gun Smoke before it was reruns in syndication. I saw M.A.S.H. the first time around. I was there for Vietnam. I protested and I sent my fiancé off to war. I sang the songs of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez when they meant something. I wore the original mini skirts and bell bottoms and platform shoes and wove flowers in my hair and mourned the kids that died at Kent State and watched the horrors of the war on nightly news. I was there when Kennedy was assassinated, when LBJ was sworn in, when Bobby and Martin died. When Teddy had his Chappiquiddick and Strom Thermon wasn’t all that old. I was there when women congressmen were different than the men. When they stood for something righteous and not for something lobbied for or lucrative. I was there when women first got maternity leave and when we burned bras and and and when we started becoming single mothers.

Getting old means I have a history – and I like that. I like that more than the wrinkles and title of ma’am.

1 comment:

Sue said...

i liked this post. it hit home.