The trouble with grandmothers began when I came across a postcard published in 1965 that featured a picture of my grandmother standing in front of her restaurant. So much about that postcard intrigued me, even beyond my initial reaction, which was that in 1965 she was about the same age that I was as I stood there holding it. In the photograph she already looks like my grandmother, whereas as recently as just a few days ago, some new acquaintances were surprised to learn that I am older than dirt.
I wondered why the postcard existed in the first place. Surely she didn’t have an advertising budget and even if she did, she wasn’t the type to pose front and center to advertise anything. One of the few things I did know about my grandmother is that she was even more guarded about her privacy and less inclined to want to be at the center of anything than I am. In fact, even as I type this sentence, I imagine some lightning-fast cosmic slap on the wrist coming across the dinner table for a breach of etiquette and discretion. My grandmother did not suffer fools.
So many ideas came to mind about the way the building has changed and yet remained the same in an area that has changed but also has remained the same and the parallels to the ways my grandmother’s life and mine are different and yet are the same.
That post never came about.
Because of you.
Well, not so much you as . . .you.
Those of you who, if you’ve even read this far at all, might be wondering, “When’s she going to get to the punch line?”
The fact is there was one, in the caption of that second photograph. I removed it out of respect for my grandmother. I’m leaving the caption because it was just as I tried to remove it that my keyboard stopped working and I had to replace the batteries for the first time in however many years I’ve owned it. I choose to take that as her nod to Boz Scaggs rather than as a cosmic slap on the wrist. She did have a whimsical side.
Back to you.
The timing wasn’t right for a serious, reflective post at the time that the postcard came to me. Either I’d just written something silly and had picked up a number of new followers who might be thinking they’d found another humor blog and would be disappointed . . . or I’d just written something serious and reflective and I thought it best not to ask you to endure too much of that.
I spend a good deal of time thinking about how the audience I’m building shapes the topics I choose, the form that it takes, and the purpose of writing it at all. In fact, it tends to shape the purpose of the blog itself. When I set out to write a blog, I didn’t anticipate any of these things. I just intended to have a place to say things.
So I filed away the postcard and the related musings because it seemed time for something light and funny.
Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo and Abuelita
That seedling draft about my grandmother was still sitting on my desktop when the Washington Post published an article about Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, an article I might have read with a general passing interest had it not been for a beautiful, if heartbreaking, Richard Shindell song called Abuelita, which means ‘little grandmother’.
Abuelita tells the story of the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo through the voice of a grandmother talking to the grandchild she has never known.
Rosa Tarlovsky de Roisinblit’s picture puts a face to the story in the song. She is now 92 years old and every day she goes to work, continuing the search for her own daughter, Patricia Julia Roisinblit, and the grandchild she has never known, as well as about 400 still-missing children and grandchildren kidnapped by a military junta supporting a dictatorship in Argentina from 1976 to 1983.
Rosa is Vice President of Abuelas de (Grandmothers of the) Plaza de Mayo, an organization dedicated to searching for those kidnapped sons and daughters and grandchildren.
There was so much in this experience of reading this article about these grandmothers, putting a face to the story that has touched me in song for such a long time, that I wanted to write about. But again, I decided to wait for another day.
Once again the timing wasn’t right for something so deep. You, whoever you are — either for real or in my mind, expect different writing from ”the Hipster” .
I Need Younger Friends
Earlier this summer I came closer to finally having an audience-worthy post about grandmothers. First a friend of mine who is younger than I am became a grandmother. I found this somewhat difficult to comprehend. I still find this difficult to comprehend.
Then a few weeks later I was in a car with several other friends, all hip, cool, totally righteous babes, who were trading updates on . . . their grandchildren. One turned to me, flashed her gorgeous Faith Hill-lookalike smile and said, “Sorry, you’re with the old folks tonight. You’ll have to put up with this grandmother stuff,” to which I replied, “Yeah, I was just thinking I’m going to have to start looking for younger friends” and then we giggled and went about laughing in the face of osteoporosis.
You might have liked that story. It’s more what I imagine you expect from me. Still, it was lacking something.
And then it happened. . .
Deus ex Range Rover: The Queen in the Machine
You may remember this story from a few weeks ago. Queen Elizabeth II made the headlines when she was spotted driving her Range Rover wearing a hoodie.
What to the world was Her Royal Thugness was to me a grandmother doing what grandmothers do: taking care of her own.
Before there was Topless Kate, there was Bottomless Harry, who learned the hard way that what happens in Vegas does not necessarily stay in Vegas when one is extraordinarily famous, wealthy, and unclothed.
All the world was a-Twitter with news of Prince Harry’s naked bachelorette party romp and then, in what seemed to me to be a fabulously well-timed photo op, the Queen was spotted rollin’ in style.
Suddenly Harry’s youthful indiscretion was old news and the Queen’s fashion statement was the new shiny thing that captivated us.
Maybe it’s because of the women of her generation that I’ve known, most of whom have been dignified and refined ladies, yet tough as nails and full of spunk.
I imagined them in her same position thinking, “Oh dear. How shall we handle THIS mess?” and then taking matters into their own hands. I couldn’t help thinking that when I saw these pictures. It amused me, and I thought if I wrote about it, I could share that amusement.
But I didn’t.
Because of me.
I was glad to have finally come upon the grandmother post that was appropriate for the blog and I probably would have written it as HoodieGate was unfolding if not for real life issues of time or whatever else was going on.
By the time I did start to write it, I saw these other grandmother ideas that I was discarding in favor of the silliness about the Queen (God save her for saving Harry) and I started to think about how many ideas I would write about that are important or at least interesting to me that I don’t write about because they don’t “fit” with the blog’s “purpose.”
Like many others I see writing on this issue, I don’t know what the blog’s “purpose” is. I know what I intended it to be: a place for me to say things.
Somewhere along the line, I wrote something that resonated with the kindness of strangers as “humorous” and I started to pick up followers (this still amazes me and I very sincerely thank you). I started to choose topics and then write in a voice and format that I thought would appeal to that audience and more and more began to discard the other ideas that are equally, if not more so, reflective of who I am and what I think about.
When I realized I was discarding ideas that really ‘coulda been contenders,’ I was a little disappointed in myself for not writing true to who I am. When I step back and look at the blog as a whole, I remember the response of the first person I showed my first post to. It was someone whose opinion mattered to me. He laughed as he read it, but then when he finished, he looked at me and said, “Who would read this stuff?”
I’m so thankful to you, yes you. . . and you. . . and even you, for reading my posts, even if from time to time, I post something that doesn’t resonate with your particular kindness.
I still find myself lacking any particular purpose, but maybe the search for purpose is a purpose unto itself.
I imagine my grandmother reading that line and thinking, “Get yourself out of that chair and get to work.”
The woman did not suffer lazy, introspective fools.
(This post is a follow-up of sorts to an earlier post on using a pre-writing thought process based on FATP in the process of writing for a blog. You can find that post here. )