When Son wants to make fun of me, he pretends to be writing a blog post as me. The punchline? They all begin with “When I was a kid.” I always laugh, because I know he must be kidding. Not ALL my posts begin like that.
When I was a kid, I often sat in a rocking chair in my grandparents’ house. It was best seat in the house. It was in the corner of the kitchen so you could see and hear everything. I also sat right next to a cupboard should you need a hiding place, and it was next to a daily calendar and sometimes I got to tear off a page. Right next to ie, there was a photo of an even smaller me which made me feel very special.
There I sat, listening to my grandmother walk around the kitchen, singing quietly or talking to herself while wiping the table, carrying things from one place to another, or cooking dinner.
Of all my grandparents, she was the one who liked to read. She read books, she liked plays, and she liked classical music. She was cultured that way. Maybe it was her way of hanging on to her old self, before she married young and became a farmer’s wife. Or maybe she just liked stories.
I remember being amazed by her memory. After all, she often told stories of things that had had in the 1950s, things that had happened at least 25, maybe even forty years earlier
She’d see a neighbor drive a new car, and she’d tell stories about grandpa’s horse working in the woods. A phone call would remind her of the old telephone operators, a crossword puzzle clue of something else.
What I couldn’t really understand was how she was able to remember stuff from that long ago. From ten, twenty, thirty years ago, and here I am, my book filled with 1980s references, just out.
The year 1980 is to me, now, what 1941 was for grandma in 1980.
I get it now, Grandma. I get it.
When I told Terry, my Canadian friend who lived with us in the mid-1980s, about Someday Jennifer and that in the book, the main character, the protagonist – the hero,if you will – wants to travel back to the 1980s, he replied:
“Wow, that’s pretty ‘rad’ (to use an 80s term). I have wondered about your obsession with nostalgia? I’ll save you the psychoanalysis.”
As if there was something wrong with it. I think it just goes to show that I have a better memory than Terry. But I understand him. Maybe I would also like to forget how ridiculous I looked, had I walked around a bandana around my ankle during a “I want to be Prince” period.
Like Grandma, I, too, like to tell stories of the past and things that have happened to me, and I’d be lying if I said that the 80s don’t feel like a special time for me. I also know that it doesn’t make me special in any way, most people find their early teens as the golden era of sports/music/books/TV.
In Terry’s defense, he probably hasn’t read the book yet so he doesn’t know that the hero’s insight isn’t that things get better if you go back in time but that time is fleeting and that you have to make the most of it. Do something.
Would I want to go back in time? Re-live my youth?
Are there mistakes I wish I could un-do? Of course there are. I’d take back some of the stupid things I’ve said, and I’d try to be braver … but only if that didn’t mess up the space-time continuum so that I’d still end up right here, sitting in front of a yellow house in Sweden, a goldendoodle asleep under an apple tree, and looking forward to a movie night with the family.
Would I want to climb back to the rocking chair and listen to grandma tell me stories from the olden days, all the way from the 1950s? Yes. Yes, I would.
I’d also love to be able to give her my book. She’d smile, and her eyes would be like two tiny black pearls behind her glasses. Then she’d retreat to their living room, sit down in a chair in front of the bookshelf, and she’d read.
And that, my friend, may just be why I write.