Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: YOUTH( 04/04/19)
Looking Backward, Going Forward
By Linda Germain
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I volunteered our first-floor guest room for the recuperation. The twins were ecstatic to have their great-grandmother in the house. She was an exciting addition to our usual routine.
On some days, out of tales and yarns to share, she watched the old movie channel. The two seven-year-olds would snuggle up on the big bed on either side. I could hear the amusing questions and even funnier answers.
“Gram, why do those ladies and men always wear hats?”
“Well, dear. Back in the 40s and 50s that was the style.”
The sound of tap dancing was the perfect lure for me to join the group.
Gram was a big fan of Fred and Ginger and Gene and Donald and Debbie. It was fun to observe the grace and agility of those famous actors from long ago. The innocent curiosity of my girls gave me much to ponder though.
“Do you think that man got in trouble jumping in puddles while he was singing?”
“No sweetie,” Grammy explained with patience and humor, “He was in love and didn’t care if he got drenched while dancing with his umbrella.”
She didn’t notice my eye-roll and snicker.
They were fascinated to see a grown man splashing around without his rain boots. I expected to see them stomping and leaping in our driveway in the next summer shower.
Soon, a surprising, profound truth began to niggle at my emerging perception of time. Every young, talented person who flitted across the screen in beautiful costumes had one thing in common. All of them were now deceased.
Captured on film decades ago, in reality, each of those young performers aged right through to a final breath on earth. Back then, they had looked so healthy and full of life. I was moved to search for old photos of my teen years. Grammy-Tam was in some of them. My kids were mesmerized.
“That can’t be you, Mom. You were so skinny!”
I winced and tried not to think about my increasing girth.
“Oh look,” one of my darlings pointed with wide eyes, “Gram’s hair is so pretty, and it isn’t white.”
The other one got up on her knees to get a better look at my mother’s mother and announced, “I like it better now.”
Later, when they were in their own beds and fast asleep, Grammy and I had a nice cup of tea and some delicious strawberries.
“You didn’t have to drive all that way just for these,” she admonished.
“Yes, I did. After all, you nearly gave your life for the yummy red morsels.”
Her eyes twinkled as she made a tempting suggestion.
“Tomorrow, what they really need is some shortcake under them and whipped cream on top.”
She was quiet for a while, staring off to a past I couldn’t see, and then shared a fleeting distant memory.
“Your grandfather loved strawberry jam. He said I made the best in the county.”
I waited for more memories, but the only thing she had to add was, “…but how did he know how all the others tasted?"
Then she went into peals of contagious laughter.
After I got her settled for the night, she took my hand, serious and introspective now.
“Honey, time goes so fast! Those old movies captured the unlined faces and youthful energy of another generation who may have never even known to give a thought to eternity. They didn’t keep living on earth, and neither will we.”
That simple statement is an absolute fact so ignored by most of us.
It’s fun to rewind and look back. At the same time, it should be a sobering lesson that for everything under the sun, including humans, there is a season.
We’re born. We live and love (and maybe waltz a little), and then we succumb on our expiration date. Very few are immortalized on the big screen to remind others that we were once young.
Now, in my own golden years, when I ride the bus to farmer’s market, I think about that musical movie marathon and Grammy’s warning to be careful on that first step and how we never know when it will be our last.
I don’t think she was talking about public transportation, or tap dancing either.
Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion.
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