Yesterday included the gym, book group, and choir practice. The others at the gym are mostly in their 20s. Book Group is senior ladies and me. Choir, now that we’re doing Messiah, includes people from teens to 80s, and last night we had a preschool visitor as well. This is a much richer human environment than the one many of us create for ourselves. So often, for the sake of comfort, we choose to live in communities where we are all about the same age, join groups based on our age or station in life, and gravitate socially to people like ourselves.
We lose a lot by age-segregating ourselves. Young parents, without the support of more experienced people, don’t have the parenting skills they need to produce well-behaved, happy children. Young knitters, learning their craft from books or DVDs, end up limited in their technique and afraid to press on to the next level of skill. Older people, without the loosening-up influence of the young, become curmudgeons. Young people, without the stabilizing influence of the middle-aged, get lost in angst. Single people, keeping themselves apart from families, have no respectable way to meet new people, and can end up choosing between feeling isolated or endangered. Teenagers become Lord of the Flies-style mobs. Not always, of course, but the danger is there.
Thank goodness for book groups, knitting groups, choirs, churches — all the groupings that mix people of different ages and backgrounds who happen to share interests. Thank goodness, too, for families. Those of us who are blessed with happy extended families have a treasure.
In my own family, we are fortunate to have interests that have been handed down through generations. Here is an ancestor with his camera in Togo. My dad just won prizes at the county fair for his photographs. #1 daughter is studying ways to use computer technology with her photos.
My grandfather studied voice at the Sorbonne. My mother sang and played her guitar in coffee houses. I sing choral music for pleasure. #2 daughter, who has already sung (with her sister in a children’s choir) at Carnegie Hall, is studying to be an opera singer.
I learned to knit from my maternal grandmother, to crochet from my mother, and to embroider from my paternal grandmother. My knitting needle collection includes both new and old needles. Some are so old that they are in the now-obsolete half sizes, or have the pre-plastic steel cables. Some are so new that they are practically trendy (yes, I now own some bamboo needles). The ones that belonged to my grandmother make me think of her whenever I knit with them, which is a very happy experience. The ones my younger self bought remind me of the days when I looked good in a knitted bikini. The new ones let me feel up-to-date, even if I’m really not.
Here’s to continuity. To tradition. To the way our beloved grandparents — and our unknown forbears — live on in our skills and in the things they used daily and which we now use in the same way. Let us pass our own skills and tools on, too.