Monday, February 23, 2009

Two Tlingit Grandmas.. OR.. Youth is Wasted on the Young

I had the rare opportunity to talk to both of my grandmothers on the same night - they both live in separate Southeast Alaska communities - and am having something of a reflection on youth and Elders.

Much of this is because of the horrified realization my "Grandma J." had that she thinks she might shuffle occasionally. I think it's mostly paranoia. She can outlast me any day of the week. My papa could run me into the ground. But we did get to talk about just how fast you're young... and then you're not. She's very good at motivating me - tonight she talked about when she had that "fire in her belly" to fight the world, run companies and figure out how to create furniture from nothing much.

She's inspiring enough to make me want to head out and fight the fight, regardless if I know what on earth I'm fighting. Just go off in all the directions you care about, and hope something sticks. Which led to her comment, "Boy, youth is just wasted on the young."

There's a chance I might agree. Although I'd like to say I've left all childish things behind me, every once in awhile I have to look back and say, "Why in the world did I just do that?" And there have been more than a few, "Wow. Never gonna get back that five minutes of my life."

Plus, I actually don't want to leave ALL childish things behind me. Only when you're so caught up in a classroom full of toddlers who accept the bucket on your head, "Little Bunny Foo Foo" dance, and horribly off-key singing as fairly natural can you really appreciate the how good the very young have it. And yes, that is EXACTLY when your boss walks by.

My "Grandma R." is yet another Elder that can run me into the ground. Or cook me into the ground, actually. Visiting her a few summers ago, I was struck when she was teaching me a new cake decorating technique she learned from another lady on the island. It occurred to me that these cooking, decorating, deliciousness skills she had been perfecting for the last several decades still weren't done being tweaked. Possibly I overstate her cooking (yeah right) but I noticed that in everything she does, she's always still wanting to know that new technique, that new little trick that makes it that much better/easier/prettier.

Both Grandma J. and Grandma R. have that in common - always learning. Grandma J. has been talking to me a lot lately about the next generation, and what we're going to need to do. Don't really know if my learning curve can keep up with the sheer enormity of it, but it is no cliche to say that I wouldn't have a chance at keeping up if I didn't have their knowledge to draw on already. The whole "respect for your Elders" stuff I used to think just meant you didn't interrupt them and jumped up quick if there were no seats left and they needed one - it's taking on a whole new meaning lately.

Tonight, it was lessons on personal finance, state politics, knowing when to just cook what you're told to cook so the timing is right, and the coolness of family that still gets together for lunch at every opportunity, no matter how far apart they are.

Tomorrow, I hope someone will tackle staying up too late and how to create a weekend to recover from your weekend. Though it's already kind of a bit late for those...

_

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