I’ve only known Bert for a couple of years, and not well at that. He’s well into his later years, slightly hard of hearing, a little saggy, sluggish and slow of speech. Until recently I thought of him as a bit of an old fuddy duddy.
That was before I saw the pictures. A friend showed me pictures of a party she’d attended where Bert was part of the featured entertainment. I won’t describe the nature of the whoopee — suffice it to say that those pictures totally blasted away that fuddy duddy image. This fellow still knows how to get a laugh and enjoy one! His sense of humor is intact. Suddenly I wanted to know more about Bert. He has become a fascinating individual.
Facing up to evidence that I think in stereotypes is a bit embarrassing. I have to remind myself that stereotypes are one of the mental mechanisms we use to make sense of the world, and we could hardly function without them.
Besides smashing a stereotype, the pictures reminded me of the importance of having both pictures and stories of our earlier versions visible to others as we age to remind the outside world of our continuing inner vitality. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren who only know us as “really old people,” are less likely to think of us (or even wonder about us) as vibrant, youthful, people who were once as fully engaged in life as they are.
Our stories and pictures remind them to look beyond the wrinkles, extra padding and slow plod and find a sense of connection. Perhaps the most useful stories for this purpose are stories of pranks and hijinks. Kids love to hear of these, even if you end with, “Don’t you dare try that!”
What pranks did you pull when you were young? Did you ever cut class? What was your equivalent of tipping outhouses? What about college pranks? April Fool jokes? Did you tell ghost stories? Write about these things and keep the young set grinning! You’ll have a great time, and probably some chuckles as you…
Sharon Lippincott, aka Ritergal