I adore listening to many points of view. In fact, at one time it was my goal to work as a translator for the United Nations. In another lifetime, I might have been a diplomat.
One such group are the young. Preceding the indoctrination into the realm of political correctness, decorum, or cultural mores, young children possess unfiltered honesty. Often adorable, occasionally embarrassing (for adults), or even shocking, the things children say can make you feel old even if you are still youthful. (Like the 16-year-old kid who pumped gas for me when I had reached the ripe old age of 20. He called me Ma’am and I burst into tears figuring life was all downhill from there.)
Then, more recently there was the kid, who upon seeing a vinyl record for the first time said, “This is the biggest CD I’ve ever seen. It must be old, it turned black!”
Similarly, the elderly sometimes cast off those filters which they have spent their adult life honing and polishing, only to provide us with a dose of pure honesty that comes with experience.
Recently while shopping, I met three lovely Italian women. They talked continuously to each other and to me, alternating topics so quickly that I learned a surprising amount about them in short order. The youngest, an early 50ish woman with thick, shoulder length brown hair, appeared well turned out in her designer clothing, classically applied makeup, accessories and expensive jewelry. In town from New York, she was visiting the other two her mother, who I’m guessing may have been in her 70’s, and her mother whom they referred to as “Baba,” who still retains the accent of her youth.
Baba, they proudly informed me, is 93 years old. Mother reminisced with me about how she had lived in Philadelphia and recalled how in “her day,” the shopkeepers would literally grab your arm to pull you inside, anxious to make a sale.
The fitness clothing that the ladies purchased that day was such a bargain, that even if it did not fit Baba, they told one another, would surely would fit their daughter/granddaughter/great-granddaughter who was away at college. I wondered how that fashion choice might go over with her. I imagined the conversation. “Great grandma bought these work out clothes, but they didn’t fit her. Do you want them?”
The three women together created a whirlpool, attracting attention of a few shoppers and sales people within earshot. Baba had much to say, and reiterated that she is 93 years old. As horrible as I am at guessing people’s ages and without the other two for reference, I might have speculated that Baba (who by the way is all of 4 foot nothing and 90 pounds soaking wet) is in her 80’s.
With the realization that Baba had begun her life the same year that Charles Lindbergh made his historic trans-Atlantic flight and that her early childhood spanned the Great Depression, I felt compelled to ask her a question which I had once heard a reporter use once.
“You are 93? Oh, I have a question that I must ask you,” I said.
Baba looked at me, enthused with my interest. Aware that everyone else around me had become suddenly silent straining to hear her wise words, I forged ahead.
“If you could have done one thing differently in your whole life, what would it have been?” I asked.
Without missing a beat, she replied, “Oh, I would have drank more!”
Her daughter and granddaughter burst out laughing, as did everyone in earshot.
“I always say, if you want the truth, ask children and old people,” said her granddaughter.
Baba’s daughter added. “She has a glass of wine every night.”