One recent summer evening I set out for a walk with our dog Dolly. My neighbor, kitty corner across the street, has two energetic little boys, and the family goes out after dinner, the parents walking, and the little boys riding their bicycles. The boys ride far ahead of their parents most days, and coming upon them, I felt shocked to hear the boys chanting, “Oh, no! It’s Dog and Old Lady!” I looked around, and realized it was ME they were chanting about!
My first thought was, “I don’t FEEL like an old lady!” Coming up to them, I responded, “I’d rather be an old lady than a little boy right now!” Many, MANY reasons why were running through my head: (1) What kind of a world will our children inherit? We’ve got all these climate changes and environmental changes; and (2) I don’t FEEL like an old lady!; and (3) I’m so glad the mistakes of my life are behind me instead of ahead of me! I sure don’t want to do them over!; and (4) I don’t FEEL like an old lady!
The boys had stopped bicycling and were eyeballing me like the monster that had crawled out from under the bed while their mom caught up to them. I was remembering the old lady who lived across the street from me when I was the boys’ age. She was a former farmer who kept bees, and she always had something interesting to do or to show us. I certainly never eyeballed her like these two little man-people were eyeballing me now, like I was some kind of giant slug. And she had a name. She wasn’t “Old Lady,” she was Mrs. Woodworth.
The boys’ mom had caught up by now, and she was holding her large dog on his leash as I was holding my large dog on her leash, each trying to pull toward the other, but we adults mindful of social distancing. The mom was embarrassed and could not apologize enough for the boys’ behavior. By this point, I was feeling more bemused than shocked, and answered, “They’re right. I am an old lady, but I sure don’t feel like one!” But mom was more upset about the boys’ rudeness than anything else. She asked them, “Can’t you just say hello to Mrs. Susan?”
I went home to my husband and told him about the incident. Alan is always good for another perspective. He asked me if I remembered how I felt about elderly people when I was young. I scratched my head, and I said, “You know? I’m ashamed to admit it now, but when I was young I thought that older people were rather slow and stupid. I did not realize that they had valuable life experiences that I lacked.”
Alan said, “Exactly! I have learned that each generation comes into life with its own lessons, and they don’t want to hear from us how to conduct their lives!” He said that, as I am mindful about my own son making a decision for his life to join the military without really discussing it with his dad and I. These young men will inherit the world as it is, and there is not much I can do about that. But I can still have some fun while I’m in it.
So the next time Dolly “Dog” and I “Old Lady” came upon the young men chanting “Oh, no! It’s Dog and Old Lady,” I played with it. I walked halfway across the street (mindful of social distancing) and chanted, “Oh, no! It’s two boys on bikes!” They loved it! They smiled. And the time after that? They both said, very politely, “Hello, Mrs. Susan!”