All of us who are actively engaged in life feel ambivalent about the generations that are rushing to take our place on this earth, even those that are made up of our most beloved relatives.
I felt this ambivalence when I came across some snapshots of my visiting children and grandchildren from a few years back. My ambivalence is shot with sadness since we find it more difficult now, as the grandchildren grow older and spread out, to spend together—also more difficult because I am deeply involved in my own life.
My eldest granddaughter just finished her first year at college. As a little girl, living in Paris, she knit me a small blue and white purse, for change. When I see it these days, I wonder why it is so much more difficult to make and give handmade tokens of affection once the big world opens up with its manifold offerings of goods no nine year old could make.
Her younger sister, a prime equestrienne, used to watch my riding lessons, cheering me on in what was a difficult and finally impossible attempt to master something I enjoyed as a child in a world where dressage, jumping, and Three Day Eventing had never been heard of; I just rode in the woods.
My youngest son’s daughter and son are about to spread their wings, too, the girl to college, the boy to make the decisions that will shape his future. I remember when the girl, visiting, sat under a tree to try to read one of the big old classics I grew up with—The White Company, Ivanhoe; the attempt didn’t last for long, but I loved the fact that she made it. Her brother used to fish with his father; now, fishing expeditions are likely to be the excuse for parties that may have unfortunate consequences.
As for my youngest grandson, a little boy so happy and so spontaneous it brings tears to my eyes, he is now being rapidly absorbed into the boy world, which seems to have changed little since I was a child. But his father reads to him every day from the old children’s books that speak of another way, if indirectly, and to my amazement, this almost-eight-year-old has outgrown his fascinating with electronics and prefers books.
They are, all five of them, causes for ceaseless celebration of life and its rich rewards.
For myself, when assailed by intimations of mortality, I sometimes turn to Jennifer Louden’s The Woman’s Comfort Book: A Self-Nurturing Guide for Restoring Balance in Your Life.
There are suggestions for all our ills—loneliness, sadness, depression—and these suggestions are beautifully practical: make a collage, put together a list of 100 experiences you enjoy remembering, make a “Done” list at bedtime rather than a daunting “To Do” list that spoils so many mornings.
I’m going to start her “Pleasure Program” this afternoon; the idea is almost as alarming as her chapter on encouraging selfishnesss!
Every day, she suggests, schedule two pleasurable activities such as “Talk to My Best Friend” and “Go For a Walk.”
I’ve already accomplished the first one although it was not comforting: it was a heated political discussion.
As for the walk—it’s cold and wet here, but my dog Rose and I will get out, at least for twenty minutes.
And to take away the sour taste of that political argument, I’m going to buy myself at least two squares of my favorite caramel and toffee candy.
Except I can’t buy them. The owner of Todas Santos always insists on giving them to me.