When I was a young woman, oh, about 10 minutes ago, my now-brother-in-law was a hippie artist Princeton student. He had the coolest old boots. I had boot envy – wanted old boots like Arthur’s. But I was probably 24 years old and “old” would have been, at best maybe 6 years old.
Then I got my own hippie life. Like all of my contemporaries, we thought we were making the world a-new. And it would NOT – no, no, no, never, no more – be like our parents dreary lives. One of the things we re-invented was food and cooking. No TV dinners for us! Tsk! Tsk! We discovered wooden spoons – an implement never seen in our parents kitchens. And cast iron frying pans.
How I envied old, seasoned, well used black cast iron frying pans. The one I bought at an Ace Hardware on Clark Street in Chicago just didn’t have the look I wanted. You know – old.
We’re also the generation that solemnly proclaimed “never trust anyone over 30” and raucously sang along with the Who “Hope I die before I’m old.” Which, a lot of us did. And if life were fair I would have been amongst them. Thankfully, life is often random and some of us have diligent angels.
The seeming disparity between my lust for old boots and old pans and concomitant disdain for old people was not, I believe unique to me or even to my self-indulgent generation of Boomers. I do believe it’s somewhat endemic to American culture and our emphasis on ‘style’ over substance. Thus, the patina of age is desired without what it takes to get there.
Last year, in March, two things happened in the same month. I got my first pension check from my long-ago employer (it was the first month after I turned 62) and I bought a motorcycle.
I’m not real materialistic but the motorcycle opened up a world of potential materialism to me. Jackets! Boots! Chrome everything! Yahoo!
But I’m also part Scottish and part Dutch so I settled down and realized I could turn my old Red Wing boots, which I so proudly bought in my hippie days – into my motorcycle boots. I’m pretty sure I bought those boots in 1978 and probably since about 1985 they’ve mostly sat in my closet unless I had to do something that involved climbing extension ladders or some such.
It’s given me great pleasure to have my old friends, the Red Wings, part of my life again. I am remembering many a path we’ve been on together. You can see a little white moon of paint – from before I had the house sided and I used to paint my house – needed the boots for all that ladder work. They’re worn in so they really fit my feet ‘just so’. Look as macho as they did when I bought them ‘back in the day’. And they really are quite practical for the motorcycle.
Yesterday I found an old classmate from high school on another classmates Facebook page. Carol and I became Facebook friends. I was looking at her pictures – marvelling at how beautiful she looked, how accomplished she was. Remembering her in high school – the kinda nerdy super-smart girl. Cute then, memorable now. Seasons.
And each season has its joys, its sorrows, its unique zeitgeist.
Simone de Beauvoir wrote: “…those interested in perpetuating present conditions are always in tears about the marvelous past that is about to disappear, without having so much as a smile for the young future.”
I think I was smiling at that young future when I was in my early 20s – wanting old boots, old frying pans. Settledness. And sureness. A stability that doesn’t belong to youth (and would only slow it down). Hello, old boots! Hello, old pan! Hello, old Diane! Be with this now and see what tomorrow brings.
How about you? Was Simone de Beauvoir right? And how about our goofy culture with its glorification of youth? What’s your take? As always, I really want to know!