When you hear the words “old person,” who do you picture? Do you picture someone you know and love? Do you think of someone on TV with a long white beard and grey hair? Do you picture someone as old as your parents? Someone even older than your parents? Me?
My point is that each of us has an individual way of picturing “old people,” and the older we get, the more that changes. I grew up with my Grangree (my grandmother). She moved in with us when I was a baby because my mother said she was afraid to bathe me. The real story (according to Grangree) was that she came over to our apartment every night after work anyway, so she and my parents figured she should just move in with us! She lived with us through my whole childhood.
Anyone who listens to Kids Corner regularly knows how much I loved my Grangree. We shared a bed when I was very little---even when I was still wetting the bed. That lady put up with a lot. When we moved to our new house on Long Island, Grangree and I shared a room, with separate beds. Every night Grangree watched the 11:00 News on TV, then Trixie the Dalmatian climbed into her bed, and we went to sleep. She got up very early every day to work in a factory making children’s hats. While I don’t remember the hats very fondly because they had tight elastic under my chin, I remember and treasure all my memories of my Grangree.
Recently I was reminded of Grangree when I talked with the oldest person I know. She’s my Grangree’s niece, and she shared stories of the lady she called “Aunt Nan.” While Cousin Margaret talked to me about her memories of my grandmother, she also told me a lot about her life and the times in which she lived. She told me memories of going “way out to the middle of nowhere” to visit my mother and Grangree when she was little. Margaret and I laughed at the story of my mother’s best friend Helen and how Cousin Margaret and my mother plotted to get Helen and Margaret’s brother Jack together. It must have worked! Helen and Jack got married and had 3 kids together!
In listening to Cousin Margaret talk about her memories of her family, I learned so much about my family and the times they lived in history. Margaret’s mother (Grangree’s sister) died when she was a baby, and she loved talking with me about her father, my mother’s “Uncle Mike.” One time Uncle Mike told Margaret that she went out dancing too much. Her answer was: “Papa, my feet have wings.” I loved that quote, but I don’t think Uncle Mike did, since he sent her to business school after that. What wonderful memories Cousin Margaret shared with me!!
Next time your family gets together, think about what you want to ask the oldest people in your family. What was the world like when they were in school? Did they have pets? My Cousin Margaret and I talked for a long time about memories of her dogs Tammy and Mr. Chips. We talked about her house on a hill and my memories of the spinning wheel she had in her living room. She enjoyed hearing my memories of those times from a child’s point of view, and I enjoyed her filling in the background on my memories now that I’m an adult.
Old people have a lot to share. Their memories can be the key that unlocks moments you’re your childhood that you don’t remember! Since I’m now an old person, I take a lot of joy in sharing my memories of the kids in my life’s childhoods, like when Ian watched “Peter Pan” and wouldn’t clap for Tinkerbell because “I want to see what happens.” He doesn’t remember that moment, but it’s one that I look forward to sharing with his children someday. Start filling up your family memory bank today by asking your parents about their memories of the oldest people in their lives.