Monday, July 10, 2017
When my middle grand-daughter was a little girl her favorite exclamation was- BOOM BABY. She was an ornery child with big blue eyes that twinkled like mischievous stars going rogue in the night sky. Her tiny voice would lower into a toddler Mae West impersonation body language and all. “BOOM BABY” she would announce to anyone within ear shot. It was her way of letting you know someone or some thing, rocked. That might mean you looked exceptionally hot- in my case, for an old broad; or, you zapped someone with a razor sharp sarcastic zinger; or, you might have even ventured into something daring like the time I jumped out of an airplane in my mid 50’s. I got a big BOOM BABY for that one. It was quite the compliment doled out to this elder and to those grand-kiddos anyone over the age of 12 fit that description.
I am not so sure my middle grand-daughter thought of me as an older person when she was 3 though. A little help from Miss Clairol and new tennis shoes designed to outrun the advancing fleshy fat cells of age, helped maintain the illusion of a grandma rock star. I kept up with the current music, movies, trends, the latest toys and could carry on a lively conversation with the youngest generation, toddler to tween. To my own grandkids I was a partner in adventure and crime. But, was it really criminal to let them eat copious amounts of junk food and candy and discharge them back into the arms of mom and dad with queasy tummies? So what if I sent them home energized and ready for a little home-based wall climbing fueled by a sugar high! The adoration in their sweet faces as I kissed their salty-sugary lips tinged with potato chips and chocolate and herded them out the door, set me apart from the routine and discipline of home life. Their parents, naturally weren’t overjoyed, but I wasn’t vying for their adulation. They would need babysitting services sooner or later. I wanted to remain perched on my grandparent pedestal tossing treats and special privileges their way.
I was a young grandmother too and while I was excited at the privilege of becoming one I did not like the name. GRANDMA. This conjured up images of my own from many years ago. I adored her, but back then white hair, a house dress, and very sensible big black shoes was the preferred fashion for grannies everywhere. I wanted the job, but my resume read: Blonde Bombshell in stylish dresses sporting the strappiest stilettos eager to obtain part-time employment as a BOOM BABY grandmother. So, from the earliest weeks of my first grand-daughter’s birth, I performed my very own ritual mantra, whispering the name “Grammie” over and over again into her teeny baby ears. It was futile. I wasn’t going to pick my name. She did. When she started to to talk, “Mimi”, so naturally rolled off of her tiny tongue, catching me by surprise; like discovering a waterfall in the middle of a forest, even though you knew God had perfectly placed it there all along. I was destined to be Mimi just waiting for this little angel to breathe life into my new role. I loved it. It fit. It suited this Boomer Baby who wanted the best of both worlds - old enough to experience the joy of Mimihood yet young enough to have many BOOM BABY moments left in me.
I rarely say things like, “back when I was a kid” or “those were the good old days” especially to them although secretly I think being a part of the Boomers has allowed me to witness and savor the best bits of generations, past and present. I’ve been raised by the Greatest Generation inheriting their love of family and country and an appreciation for good values and hard work. I’ve been an activist (sort of) although I think at the time it was more about rebellion than the cause itself. I’ve seen the best in fashion - from go-go boots and mini-skirts to bell bottoms and padded shoulders (ugh). The bra got burned and we preached, “love the one you’re with” although that too, thank heavens, was just a verbal rebellion on my part rather than really changing my moral code. Additionally, burning the bra in my tender teen years was hardly a defiant act. There was nothing symbolic about setting my AA chest free. What was the use? No one noticed and why burn a perfectly good and heavily padded bra?
Black and white televisions sporting rabbit ears gave us the choice of two or three channels when poised just right and the wind was in our favor. My frivolous uncle was first in his neighborhood to realize the dream of “in living color” on his expensive new television and we gathered around it in awe as Lawrence Welk made tangerine skin stylish decades before Donald Trump. Living color in the 60's was a bit surreal and phony too.
My first car was a Volkswagen Beetle that took $3.00 to fill the gas tank and made a statement about ecology and sustainability before it was even a cause. Mostly all I cared about was that it was cute. And bright red. The engine was in the trunk making it a death trap on four wheels should I ever get into a head on collision. It didn’t matter. At 16 I knew I was indestructible.
Our chunky black phone, party lines and long-distance charges only the wealthy could afford, eventually morphed into a slim line and the mobile was a sack phone that plugged into your car cigarette lighter, a car accessory before smoking was virtually banned. I was incredibly cool and oh, so, important, conducting business on my phone in a bag to and from work.
I was introduced to Tooey back in the 80’s. It took half a school year for me to find out Tooey wasn’t a whiz kid classmate of my young daughter’s but a computer. Tooey has long since passed on to be reborn into many new lives, evolving with every rebirth. PC, laptop, tablet, smart phone.
I’ve danced under a disco ball and exercised with Jane Fonda, and yes, copied her feathered hair and leg warmers. Picture a room full of "Janes" jazzersizing our way across the YMCA gym floor. Good times.
Removing an appendix involved a five day hospital stay and having a baby was a four day spa experience complete with nursery staff that only brought you the little one at feeding time because you needed your rest! And rest we did. Nurses brought in Good Housekeeping and Redbook magazines for us to peruse as we healed our girl parts under a sheet tent propped up by our bent legs with a heat lamp directed at baby's first home. Ahhh... It was lovely! Now, an overnight hospital stay, at best, is standard.
(SIGH) Not all changes are necessarily progress.
I guess I really can’t brag about how evolved I am in waving goodbye to the past and embracing the future unlike some of my boomer tribe who still live there in their heads and talk about the "good old days" incessantly, unable to appreciate anything new or innovative. However, “back in the day" some things just were better; not as frantic or fearful. Time was more luxurious and living was not necessarily simpler, like the generation that raised me, but easier. While my generation has experienced more advances in just a few decades than any other, the growth seemed to serve us rather than us being enslaved by it. We are now so dependent on things that were designed to give us more time and make our lives easier; smart phones, fast food, online shopping, and social media. It’s marketing overload bombarding our brains and superficial connections cultivated in 140 characters or less, or worse yet, an emoji. My criticism of this new world order reinforces I am indeed a GOLDEN GIRL BOOM BABY. When I hear myself being critical I try to step back and find the positives in this phase of my life, keeping my mind, which admittedly fires a little slower, both curious and open.
Still there are too many positives to being an elder boomer baby to get trapped in those glory days of yore. For instance, my compulsive power walking, and extreme aerobics (which did a destructive number on my spine and hips) has forced me to consider gentler Yoga which in turn has tuned me into what my mind and body needs rather than just fluffing up the window dressing. And, I no longer have any desire to tolerate anything that feels cruel, disingenuous, or is not aligned with my values, no matter how well it pays, how much I need to be supported or accepted, or how lonely I think I am. The rule of heart (my own) reigns. If my soul is tossing up red flags, I trust it now. I may not turn a head anymore, but I am occasionally called on to help another human being straighten theirs out because of my years of trial and error wisdom.
I continue to navigate my "older age" with humor and a hopeful expectation that someday I just might hear my now teenage middle grand-daughter exclaim - BOOM BABY when in the company of her Mimi. At least a few more times before I die.