Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Old and New

It’s been more than twenty years since I sold it, but I miss the old house. It’s only a mile down the hill in the village and it must be something like how it feels to have an ex-wife in town. It was drafty-cold in winter, but when I felt chilled I could warm up by backing up to the wood stove. My new house is warm and tight. There are no drafts and the temperature is even, but I still miss the old place.

That old house drove me crazy sometimes, but most of my memories are good. It will always be part of me because for nine years I crawled all over it inside and out, fixing this and painting that, re-building something else. Nothing was square and all the carpentry took longer, but it was strong, built with posts and beams and tree-nails. The foundation was split granite and hadn’t moved for over a century. There was brick-lined, well just inside the building and water flowed through the partial cellar during spring, coming in from the uphill side and draining out the downhill side. In a dry summer, the well would get low, but we always had enough water if we were careful, even with four kids and two adults. I liked that the house was older than me, more than a hundred years older. When the wind blew hard on winter night, I’d feel uneasy, but then I’d realize that the house had weathered many such storms for more than a century before I was born. There was a certain security in that.

I like my new house too, but it took a long time before I’d done enough to it with my own hands to make it really mine. I bought the land, cleared the trees, and chose a plan with my wife, but I hired carpenters to do most of the actual building. It’s twenty years old now and I’m fifty-seven - much older than the house. The wind blows more strongly here on the windward of Christian Hill. There’s nothing between me and Mount Washington to block it, and on Christmas Eve it was howling worse than I ever remember it. The old house was on the leeward side of the same hill, and I was questioning my judgement about deciding to build here. If anything happened, I’d have no one to blame but myself.

Speaking of the blame game, many in my generation of baby boomers have blamed our problems on the WWII generation for a long time, suggesting they could do a much better job of it. Well, that “greatest generation” is nearly all gone now. The old folks don’t stay around like old houses. They die and we bury them and we become the elders. Most of our current world and national problems are created by guess who? Baby boomers, because we’ve been essentially running things for a couple of decades. Though we still do, we can’t legitimately blame our parents anymore, and soon we won’t be able to ask them for advice either. We’ll have to become fonts of wisdom for those generations following us whether we’re able to or not. I hope they’re more gracious to us than we were to our parents.

Like my new house, our new president-elect is younger than I am. The last two have been only slightly older but I don’t think either one was smarter or wiser - quite the contrary. Obama is on the back end of the baby boomer generation and I’m nearer the front. I’m a whole decade older than he is. Pondering this reminds me of how I felt when I talked to a much younger resident surgeon who was about to do an emergency procedure on me. I had to consent because I couldn’t wait for my own doctor. Now Obama is about to perform emergency surgery on our whole country. He has a Democrat-controlled Congress to pass what he wants and I’m going to have to sit back and watch.

When I go food-shopping, I notice more aisles selling “organic” things, whatever that means. I push my cart past them. If shopping carts had bumper stickers, I would see “Obama/Biden” and “Earth is our Mother” and “Live Simply” down those aisles anyway. Let them pay the inflated prices. In the checkout line recently, a cashier looking for the price of some produce I was buying asked me if it was organic. “I hope not,” I said. “At my age, I need all the preservatives I can get.” I never buy organic produce. It costs more, usually looks wrinkled and misshapen, and doesn’t taste any better. The only way produce tastes better is when it’s fresher, and organic doesn’t mean fresh.

All these are indicators to add to my “You know you’re getting older when . . .” list, which will only get longer until I’m dead - nature’s way of telling us to slow down.

Happy New Year.


Anonymous said...

Actually, Obama is not a Boomer. As many nationally influential voices have repeatedly noted, he is part of Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X. Google Generation Jones, and you'll see it’s gotten a ton of media attention, and see many top commentators from many top publications and networks (New York Times, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) are specifically referring to Obama, born in 1961, as part of Generation Jones.

gaffer said...

As a man of almost 77 I see the analogy of your old house being compared to the Greatest Generation. I remember as a kid being afraid of a German invasion and watched as my dad built a device to warn our neighbors of an air raid attack and learning the silhouettes of various war planes.

That lack of war experience by today's generation seems to make them unqualified to pick leaders who will protect us in the future. I am currently reading Liberal Fascism by Jonah Goldberg that gives an different view on how we have gotten to where we are today. I believe that the world is not getting better and I fear for my grandchildren and their futures.

Tom McLaughlin said...

I never heard of Generation Jones. Who arbitrates these things?

Liberal Fascism is a great book. Gave me a new perspective on fascism and liberalism that I've already used in my teaching.

I fear the current generation lacks the will to fight for what we have. They don't even know what we have that's worth fighting for. They think it was always this good for Americans.

Obviously there are many heroes among our young people and they're fighting for us now. But the rest of their generation is indifferent or even hostile to their efforts. They elected Obama, someone whose mettle is questionable to say the least.

Guess we'll have to wait and see what he's made of, huh?

Garnet said...

This is my favorite- as seen on a birthday card:

"You know you're getting older when... you wake up feeling like you have a hang-over, and you didn't even have anything to drink the night before!"

Anonymous said...

...ah man, you take the best photo's Tom!

I use them for my wallpaper, like the Castle in Ireland and now this!

When ya heading to the Caribbean, I need one of those!



Anonymous said...

...guess I should read your post eh!

Yes, worried about the future indeed as our values have changed. Now we are more worried about prisioner rights than victims.

Hopefully the pendulum will swing back some day.


Tom McLaughlin said...

Thanks Tom. That's the back yard of my new house. Is it still new after twenty years? Yeah. It is to me. In summer, my wife's flower garden blooms around the chairs.