At what point in life does one realize that they have switched stations and are now on the top end of the generation gap?
For me, it hit me like a ton of bricks this past Sunday. Our youngest daughter, Julia, recently received an iPod for her 12th birthday. I helped her with loading all her CD's onto the computer and synchronizing it with the gadget, one which I have resisted owning for myself. I still treasure my vast collection of CD's, complete with their jewel cases and album liners and notes. But that isn't the part that led me to believe I was approaching old fogey status.
No, that happened after the songs were loaded and Julia was prancing and dancing in the living room with the next door neighbor. Every song sounded just alike to me – whiny and awful. You know the ones: girl singer after girl singer, shouting the same four words over and over, same beat, same tempo. I thought my head might explode.
I took it as long as I could. It was, after all, her birthday present from her father and me. Eventually, though, came the inevitable.
"Julia! I can't take it anymore! Take that thing up to your room and close the door!"
And just that quickly, with those words I was flashing back to when I was twelve years old. I was in Columbus, Mississippi, piled in bed with my cousin Debbie. It was an annual summer thing that we did – I stayed two weeks with her; she stayed two weeks with me. Aside from those visits, we saw each other only on major holidays at my great-grandmother's house.
Going to Debbie's was a fabulous treat for me. Columbus seemed like a huge metropolis compared to my small hometown. They had summer baseball leagues where we would go every evening and watch the cute boys play in their crisp white uniforms. Their YMCA pool dwarfed my little city pool and they had more and better diving boards. Every day, we went to the Singer Store where my Uncle Arthur, Debbie's father, worked for his entire career. There, on the second floor, we took sewing lessons. I still remember my first effort: a colorful striped shirt that would have been great except for the fact that I had inadvertently sewed up the armholes. It made it really tough to wear. My grandmother later repaired this for me, uttering her pet phrase of the dedicated seamstress: "So shall ye sew, so shall ye rip."
My favorite part about being in Columbus, undoubtedly, was the special treatment afforded me by Aunt Julia. First, she made the most spectacular cinnamon toast ever. Those piles of crumbly cinnamon and sugar atop heavily buttered thick bread were heavenly. Attempts to recreate it, even after being taught how, have failed miserably.
I usually managed to be in Columbus for my birthday. Aunt Julia always let the birthday girl choose everything for the day, including dinner. I always picked spaghetti; hers was amazing. She would take us anywhere I wanted to go – the pool, the ball park, the lake. I loved her and envied Debbie that she had this wonderful mother.
But I digress. There came an evening where Debbie and I were playing one album repeatedly. We were told to stop and go to bed. We went to bed, hid completely under the covers, and turned Herman's Hermits on once more. The volume was at the lowest level possible.
There's a kind of hush, all over the world, tonight, all over the world, you can hear the sounds, of lovers in love – you know what I mean?
On about the fifteenth playing of this particular song – the most beautiful song in the world, we thought – kind, soft Aunt Julia stormed into the room.
"Debbie! We can't take it anymore! That is just pounding, pounding, pounding! I think my head is going to explode. Turn it off!"
And with that, she stormed out of the room and we turned off the music. I was shocked. Debbie recovered more quickly, whispering to me, "How can she not love a song about hushing?" We stifled our giggles as best we could and finally drifted off in our dreams and into Herman's imaginary arms.
I snapped out of my reverie and realized my little Julia must be thinking of me exactly what I thought of my Aunt Julia. I slipped up the stairs and listened to their music once more, determined to give it another try and a fair shake.
It didn't work…
I have officially entered Old Fogeyhood. Wish me well!