What is lost

Yesterday I bumped into Elinor and Adam at the Farmer’s Market in Corte Madera.  Adam is a writer who’s just sold a screenplay and is working on another film.  I offered congratulations and they inquired after my family.  Elinor has listened to many of my toddler updates and though they’re not nearly grandparent age, they are enormously patient while I regale them with Caedan Ray’s latest exploits.  They know I live 400 miles away from the little girl and they empathize.

Adam, always a thoughtful and well-spoken advocate for his beliefs, introduced the topic often taught by Margaret Mead, about the value of generations living close together the way we once did, and how much the youngers can learn from the elders.  We three stood there on a beautiful autumn day and sighed about how we’ve never had that experience and how wonderful it must be.

Today, friend Steve from Portland, Maine, emailed a coda to yesterday’s conversation.

“Not a cheery household today.  Susie left earlier to go to Massachusetts for the funeral of a friend and just before she left we got word that my uncle, my father’s twin, died this morning.  For most of my childhood we lived in a huge farmhouse in West Bowdoin.  It was an extended family–great grandmother, grandmother and grandfather, my parents, Uncle Ellie and us kids all living together.  Uncle Ellie was an English teacher and ski instructor.  He taught us to ski as toddlers on the hill behind the house.  When I was a teenager he lent me his yellow Studebaker Lark convertible to go on dates in.  He was a great guy and we’re going to miss him.” 

It’s a mixture of emotions.  Sadness for Susie’s loss.  It’s always startling to lose a peer at any age.  Sympathy for Steve and his family at the loss of a dear relative.  And I also felt a pang of envy about Steve’s childhood.  His is the only story I’ve heard recently about such an upbringing.  Then, finally, there’s hope in both conversations.  Adam and Steve, considerably younger than I, are talking about the value of multi-generational surroundings.  If this kind of talk continues and spreads, is there a chance that one day our society can take a few steps backward and embrace this idea again?  That might be a huge step forward.

Ó By Anita Garner

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