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Lions in Winter

Age is a funny thing-it’s more relative than I used to understand. In my mind’s eye, I still picture myself as a twenty-something-a youngish twenty-something. My parents, meanwhile, are frozen in their forties, my cats are still kittens and my heroes are all still in their prime. I’ve known that this is all untrue for some time. But Simon’s existence is putting a spotlight on the matter as it becomes increasingly obvious to me that time and age are conspiring to keep me from sharing certain things with him. I’m on the wrong side of a generation gap, and I don’t like it one bit.

When Matt and I lived in Ann Arbor, when we were twenty-somethings, we had a friend with two kids who were just over ten years younger than us. This gap was the source of much merriment, as we’d quiz them about things like the first president they could remember (Reagan or Bush 41), whether they ever read Bloom County (no), or if they could remember a time when people used typewriters (also no). The space shuttle was old news to them, they didn’t read Calvin and Hobbes, and they didn’t know who shot J.R. You get the idea. It all seemed terribly funny then.

Now, I’m seeing less humor in the situation. This is Spinal Tap, one of my favorite movies is 24 years old. Paul Newman is 83 and may not be well. Senator Edward Kennedy is now 76 and is certainly not well. John Ed Pearce is gone. Walter Cronkite is 91. It is only now dawning on me that Simon will one day hear these names and regard them the same way I do/did references to Richard Burton, Martin Luther King, or Edward R. Murrow: greats I have no immediate experience with.

By the time Simon is old enough to be paying attention, most of my favorite actors and actresses will be gone, retired, or boringly middle-aged. U2 and The Police will be nostalgia music. (Their early music is already older now than the Beatles’ music was when I first started listening.) There aren’t going to be any high-profile Kennedys on the national scene. Print journalism is dying. For that matter, apart from the BBC, the New York Times, NPR, and The Economist, you could make a compelling argument that all English-language journalism is dying.

It’s not that I don’t think a new generation of greats will rise up and inspire him. I do. It’s just that I wish U2 could stay young(ish) a bit longer, that Senator Kennedy could be a firebrand in the Senate for 15 more years and that Paul Newman could run his charity, direct films, and be gorgeous for another decade or so. I wish Paul Wellstone were still around. I wish I could still read Molly Ivins once or twice a week. I wish Thurgood Marshall were still on the Supreme Court.

In short, I wish that I could introduce Simon to all that has inspired and moved me before it gets consigned to history and invokes a “ah mom, there you go rambling on again” reaction from him. And if I can’t get that, I hope at least his generation will grow up with idols worthy of worship. If only wishing could make it so.

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