Old Things v. Young Ones
The value is in the eyes of the beholders
Who decides worth? Boomer reader Marie Anderson has had to wrestle with that question for years, gently facing off with her offspring – the “Young Ones” – about the value of treasured possessions – the “Old Things.”
It started about 15 years ago when I was in my 50s, a married mom of three Young Ones—two sons in college and one daughter in high school. That’s when I first had to defend Old Things from Young Ones.
It began with my cell phone, which my Young Ones disparaged as The Brick. It did resemble a brick. I’d had it for four years. It made calls and received them. It may even have texted, though I’d never asked it to. I loved that phone. It never went missing. It never got stolen. It kept working even after the occasional crash onto the floor or sidewalk.
My defense of Old Things continued with our desktop computer, which was built by son #2 when he was a junior in high school. By the time he was a junior in college, his visits back home always included nagging to replace that Old Thing.
“It works great!” we Old Ones protested.
“It’s going to die,” he warned.
“You built it!” we Old Ones reminded him. “So it has sentimental value!”
But one Christmas morning, our Young Ones gifted us a New Computer. The Old Computer did not protest when a Young One unplugged her. Gentle into that good night she went. A Young One placed her in a cluttered car trunk and drove her to a faraway electronics recycling center. She’d worked fine right up to the end. As for her lovely new replacement, well, that sleek model was replaced a year later by a sleeker model.
My husband had an aunt and uncle named Babe and Orv. By the time they’d turned 80, they were completely outnumbered by their Young Ones – six children and 12 grandchildren.
One autumn, one of their Young Ones decided that Babe and Orv needed to get rid of their freezer.
The freezer was a grand old dame. She’d worked tirelessly for Babe and Orv for 50 years, never sick, never complaining. Orv had spiffed her up with paint a few times, so she mostly looked pretty good. They’d paid $250 for her, an 18 cubic-foot Sears Cold Spot. Over the years, she’d held bread and Twinkies for the family, and cows for a neighbor.
But their Young Ones decided that Cold Spot was too old. She was not energy efficient, according to a gadget a Young One tested her with. So, on Halloween, two guys came, dismantled her so she could easily fit through doorways, and hauled her away.
Babe said that there was no dust on the floor where Cold Spot had lived and served for 50 years.
What more does an Old Thing have to do to prove her worth?
Sometimes age is an asset. Think Antiques Road Show. But more often, Young Ones see age as a liability. Once something achieves Old Thing status, out it goes, even if it still works just fine.
A famous anonymous somebody said that we should measure wealth not by the things we have, but by the things we have for which we would not take money.
The things I have for which I would not take money happen to be Old Things.
One is the spinet piano on which my husband and his siblings, and later our Young Ones, learned to play. The piano can’t hold a tune well anymore, and nobody plays it, but it gives us a generous surface for displaying New Stuff we get as gifts from the Young Ones.
Another Old Thing I treasure is my maternal grandmother’s gold wedding band. I wear it above my own relatively younger (only 43 years old) wedding and engagement rings. My grandmother’s wedding ring was once swallowed by a baby cow on her Minnesota farm and later pooped out. The baby cow was motherless; my grandmother was teaching it to suckle by placing her milk-wet fingers in the little guy’s mouth. Her ring, living on my finger, will eventually, I hope, live on my daughter’s finger.
Our Young Ones have launched themselves into careers, relationships, and domiciles. My husband and I have downsized from a 3,600-square-foot, 100-year-old home with a lovely front porch, no a/c, and thinning wood floors into a tidy little brick ranch completely updated by the previous owner, much to our Young Ones’ relief. I’ve done lots of decluttering, but I don’t and won’t use “old” for the litmus test when deciding what should stay and what should go.
I’m proud to be turning 70 this year. I’m proud to be turning my deaf ear toward the eloquent urging of Young Ones to get rid of things merely because … they’re old.
Marie Anderson is a Chicago-area married mother of three millennials. Her stories have appeared in about 70 publications, including “The Saturday Evening Post,” “Woman’s World,” “Mystery Magazine,” and forthcoming in “Calliope Interactive.” She is the author of two story collections, “What Good Moms Do and Other Stories” and “Sharp Curves Ahead.”
Read more childhood memories and other contributions from Boomer readers in our From the Reader department.
Have your own childhood memories or other stories you’d like to share with our baby boomer audience? View our writers’ guidelines and e-mail our editor at Annie@BoomerMagazine.com with the subject line “‘From Our Readers’ inquiry.”