Tonight I saw a humorous ‘fashion show’ of the choir dresses from a long part of the Swedish Radio Choir’s 90-year history. I’d share photos of them, but you’re undoubtedly going to get better views of them if you look in the choir’s archives. Having a good laugh over them in person, despite the uneven lighting and mosh-pit activity at the reception, was tremendous fun. Reflecting on what I myself wore in the eras when these sorts of dresses were fashionable is either hilarious or horrifying, depending upon my mood and whether you ask me or someone who had to look at me in said clothing.
It’s a good reminder that what is merely Old Stuff has a world of possible interpretations when revisited, either because it becomes popular once again after a time of absence or it is unearthed as it was in this little bit of choir jollity. Is it vintage, or passé? Sexy or silly? Trendy or timeless? So much depends upon the moment and the company. Point of view determines value, more often than not.
After seeing those dresses of yesteryear, I was reminded that what I’m currently sorting for our household downsizing will inevitably raise the same question, whether I am the one later coming across objects I opted to keep or somebody else is discovering my discards. I have no excuses. I’ve seen what happens many, many times. But we never tire of the New, do we? Good thing we like combing through the Old, too. Hope most of the people I hang around with will find me closer to vintage than just junk as I keep aging.
The small number of vintage family photos I own are a pleasure to view. I’ve admired some of them for their sheer aesthetic value, some for the clues they give to my ancestors; lives, and (indirectly) how the led to mine, and some for both qualities. But I’ve found that, like so many other belongings, the more I see them, the less I notice them. I should know this by now, having lived in around a dozen locations in my life and done the revisionist-revisiting of my personal history that comes with every sort-and-pack adventure. Objects, no matter how I imbue them with meaning and attach to them with affection or nostalgia, are still just objects. I have often enough regretted a hasty or wasteful acquisition, never mind the long-term storage and maintenance of it; I can honestly say that not one de-accessioning has left me seriously sorry. My memory is sufficient.
The family photos that have hung on my walls become—no pun intended—relatively invisible over time. It’s really the stories with which I have come to associate them, true or imagined, that make me revisit them, and this is far more often in my mind’s eye than in physically examining them.
I haven’t lost interest in my loved ones, unknown relatives, friends, or acquaintances when I stop looking at their pictures any more than I have lost interest in food and drink when I part with a vintage serving bowl or beautiful stemware; it’s just that I have so internalized my affections for them and the personal associations I have with them that those internal images become as real and significant as the things themselves. If I have enough to keep me content and well-filled—bowls, glasses, pictures on the walls—any extras become unnecessary to my pleasure; they go, and the enjoyment remains for as long as I have the memory to revisit it.
And when the memory goes, I’ll never know it’s missing, will I.
It’s said that if life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade. That’s a charmingly cheery, sunshiny idea, and one that seems plenty valuable to me, if perhaps occasionally a bit difficult to realize. Even life’s complications can have complications.
That’s why your best bet is to have the finest lemonade-makers handily available to you throughout your life.
I’ve always done well in this department. I was, in fact, born to one of the premier practitioners of both literal and figurative lemonade artistry. Having just chatted with her on this, her birthday, I can confirm that she is still as gifted at it as she is a gift. Mom, whatever the lemon crop at hand, makes the finest sunshiny lemonade out of it. The day may be rainy, as it has been up there today, but I could sense the warmth and light as soon as I heard her voice. It’s a grand thing to feel as though I’ve just sipped that most summery citrus drink when I hear my mother’s voice. It makes me glad that she is having an appropriate day of good cheer and pleasantness for celebrating her birthday. And it makes me glad that I have the blessed privilege of having a mom who retains her skills for day-brightening as the birthdays pass. Who knows but what I might master the recipe for lemonade myself, if I stick by her side and learn from the best.
Happy birthday, Mom! May there be many more, each filled with the most refreshing and renewing joys that, if they’re not already as much a treat as you desire, can be converted with a bit of your special knowledge and skill into the most wonderful lemonade. Cheers!
What a puzzler it is that misty weather makes hair frizz
but rainy weather turns it flat—what kind of logic lies in that?
How, if light pressure makes unfurl what tighter tension leads to curl?
And why our nature is it called, that time grows hair more—or makes bald?
Makes me afraid the wond’ring fright could lead to greying overnight;
I s’pose it’s normal, to be fair, but find I’m tearing out my hair.
When it’s explained, sure I’ll be dead…
‘Least I’ll have moss atop my head.
My inability to foretell the future seems to become more pronounced as I get older. Is this because I’m more aware of the potential diversions and distractions, thanks to my ever-increasing wisdom? Because I’m more attuned to Other Worlds as I sneak ever closer to the time when I’ll dwell in them, and lose focus on this realm? Is it because I’ve already forgotten what I was talking about at the beginning of this paragraph and have no room for pursuing any larger thoughts than sentence-chasing?
More likely, it’s just that the forces in this universe are much wilier than I am and outfox me at every turn, and as I age it only becomes more apparent to me, and to everyone around me. I’m okay with that. In fact, I learn, with every revolution of the solar system, more of how much adventure and delight can lie in the unexpected places that life takes, leads, or pushes me. All the prescience in the world wouldn’t necessarily have better prepared me for what lay ahead, and being clairvoyant couldn’t possibly have convinced me that the many fabulous extravaganzas of mysterious tangential journeying sprung on me were the right path or worth the risks. Yet it’s all gotten me Here. A twisting, bumbling, contorted tour, yes, but one with a lot of happy happenings along the way.
What tomorrow will bring is anybody’s guess. Anybody’s but mine, that is.
I am not in the least opposed to growing older. Or even growing really, really old. I’d just like to do so with a smidgen of style and a jot of class, if I can lay hold of either of these by then. In the meantime, I’m pretty happy that most people don’t think of me as exceedingly geezer-ish—or at least don’t have the temerity to say so to my softly collapsing face. Grey hair and wrinkles, along with all of my more singular scars and bruises acquired along the way, are merely outward expressions of my having lived a life, perfect or not, as opposed to having merely existed on the planet, taking up space without filling it.
I may not be a glorious vintage of anything, but if I’m not exactly well aged, I’m at least, well, aged. And that pleases me quite enough.
I love Old Stuff. Maybe it’s the increasing affinity I feel as I age, myself. Maybe it’s the lovely and mysterious history carried by venerable objects, the sense of time folding back upon itself to reveal hidden, intertwined stories that intersect, and somehow remain embedded, in the visible and tangible archaeological detritus of the past, whether immediate or ancient. I’d guess it’s both admiration and affinity. I like to think that eventually, somebody bulldozing through the dust-heaps of unremembered time will come across a mark or two of my having existed and find, rather than the dull and quotidian facts of who I was or what I did, a trove of enchanting imagined possibilities colored by the rust and the wreckage.
On this past summer’s travels, it was, as it always is for me, a magical treasure hunt for old and arcane stuff that would feed my imagination just as much as it was a journey of love and learning and newly delightful experiences. Much beauty, a bit of humor, and lots of mystery. So I give you now a collection of the images I found that filled this particular vault of my affections, with more—undoubtedly—to come.