What is it about viewing the young of our species that seems to inspire such sentimentality in older generations?
Is it the un-shuttered vitality of youth?
The urgent need for things to speed up?
At what point do we trade those attributes for more, shall we say, sedated qualities?
Varicose veins, while visual evidence that blood continues to travel through our body, can hardly be considered desirable on a ‘signs of life’ list.
One would hardly ask for liver spots to signal that our organs are still functioning. I might prefer an e-mail for instance…
All systems are currently in working order.
Please accept our thanks for your continued dedication to our exercise requirement.
We will be considering your request to drop our weight another pound as per our previous discussion.
And yet, in an odd sort of way, the old and the young each seem to have lessons to teach the other about life.
The old, with so much life to reflect on.
The young, with so much life to look forward to.
The young, so happy to climb higher and higher.
The old, so happy if they can just keep both feet on the ground.
The young, so fresh from the infinity from which they were born.
The old, so ripe for the eternity to which they will return.
The young, feeling life is an eternity.
The old, feeling eternity is life.
This is a story about age and vitality and traveling and speed... I'll just let you read it.
When my brother was two and a half, I took him to a local historical museum for an afternoon. We were home-schooling at the time and there was a presentation of some sort that day. Besides a smattering of other homeschool families, the general audience was comprised of local retirees and elderly folk.
We meandered around the displays, set up amongst the hundred year-old buildings and antiquated farm equipment. I was caught up in the facts and interesting objects, while my brother took up a more age-appropriate occupation… Popping the heads off dandelions and getting in the way of passersby.
One elderly man on an electric scooter seemed to take special interest in my brother. Landon was sitting on the sidewalk grabbing the heinous yellow flowers in his chubby fists and chanting a silly verse in a sing-song voice. I don’t remember who had taught it to him but I seem to recall it had something to do with a baby’s head popping off. *Pop* Off came the flower’s head. *Pop*
The man watched in amusement as this went on a while. I can only imagine his hearing was bad enough that the ridiculousness of the words escaped his notice. Either that or he had a good sense of humor.
Shortly, he nudged his scooter a bit closer and engaged my brother in conversation. What there was to be had. Landon was a mere toddler after all. But despite the lack of Aristotle-esque wit and debate, the man listened intently as my brother rattled on about what-ever was in his little, airy blond head at that moment.
*pop* Who knows, maybe he was telling tales on the one who taught him the stupid rhyme. Not that I would know who he was referring to, of course. *pop*
After establishing their agreement on whatever point my brother was making, they settled into the comfortable sort of camaraderie that often seems to fall on the very old and the very young. The elder of the pair asked if he might be allowed to let my brother “drive” his scooter. I saw no reason to refuse and watched as Landon was hoisted onto the man’s cushiony lap.
The old man patiently showed the toddler just how to operate the lever to control the scooter’s motion. My brother was an avid pupil, I assure you.
I may have neglected to mention that at this time there was a elevated sidewalk being built to connect a couple of the museum’s buildings. The work had not been finished before the occasion or our story would have a much less dramatic ending.
As the elderly gentlemen sat back in his seat and relinquished his controll of the scooter, my brother took his chance. Without the slightest hesitation he used his tiny thumb, made more agile by all that dandelion-popping, to shove the throttle as far forward as it would go. The scooter lurched forward and picked up speed.
The poor man could do nothing but make a desperate grab for the arm rests and hang-on for dear life, they were headed right up the unfinished path. Since it was quite obvious that there was a sudden end to the walk-way no-one had seen fit to put up any sort of barrier. It was a perfect ramp.
My brother was in his element. Over the edge they went. I can see it now. Orange flag fluttering behind the scooter, competing with the old man’s comb-over for the ‘most-exuberant’ title. One gaping mouth. One turned up in a joyous grin. I kid you not when I say my baby brother 'caught air' on an old man’s electric scooter!
*Thump* they hit the grass. None the worse for wear, thank goodness. The man sat gasping a moment before carefully setting my brother on the ground.
“Well, I say, you are quite the driver!”
“Yea, I like dat ting. We do dat adin, Tay?”
“Uh-- we’ll see., Uh-- not today. You be a good boy and mind your sister, alright?”
And so it goes.
One adventure at a time.
One encounter after another.
Lesson by lesson.
We learn from one another.
We benifit from our time together.
We come away the wiser for it.
No matter how old we are,
It's a good practice to be sure of who is at the wheel.
And no matter how young we are,
A tacky song is better than no song at all...
Oh, and tattling on your faithful music-teacher can lead to a fast ride and a sharp-drop.
Do you think the gentleman and the toddler learned their lesson?
I am inclined to think maybe it was a case of too old to remember and too young to remember, respectively.
The Prairie Hen