My sister is writing a weekly column for her local paper, the Norwalk Register. Here's one she had recently:
The secret lives of grandmothers
By CLAUDIA MULLINS - Local Columnist
When I was a child, my grandparents lived with us and I spent a lot of time with them. They had their own little apartment above the garage that always smelled like cigars and boiled broccoli. On most days, I would knock on their door and find them listening to a baseball game on the radio, watching game shows on television or taking a nap.
We did simple things on my daily visits, like sorting the buttons Grandma kept in an old cookie tin and eating vanilla ice cream. In the evenings, we would watch "Jeopardy" and keep a running score for each contestant on colored tablet paper. These activities were obviously designed to keep me quiet, busy and in one spot. Maybe my grandparents were a little older than most when I came along, but to me, theirs seemed to be quite normal grandparent behavior.
Now that I'm older, I've begun to see grandparents in a whole new light. For instance, is it normal for Grandma and her friends to gallivant from tearoom to tearoom, wearing passion purple outfits and feathered, flaming red hats? One day I saw exactly that. A flamboyant group of ladies, all in the grandma-age range, were heading into one of the local shops. They were dressed outrageously in vivid scarlet and purple, talking, laughing and holding onto their oversized, red hats in the wind. As I would later discover, they were members of the Red Hat Society. I checked out their Web site. This is a nationwide organization for women of middle age and up, who have decided to approach this phase of life with a sense of humor and each other's companionship and support.
What a wonderful, whimsical concept. Apparently what motivated the woman behind this phenomenon was a charming poem written by Jenny Joseph, which humorously describes the less inhibited view of life she hopes to adopt when she is old. Along with the wearing of red hats with purple dresses, Joseph mentions things like picking flowers in other people's yards, hoarding pens and pencils and learning to spit.
Yes, the poem is about flower stealing, pen hoarding, spitters. I am as shocked as you are. Oh, these eccentric ladies in their fancy clothes look innocent, but you'd better keep your watchdog near your garden and mind your pens and pencils. And whatever you do, don't teach an old lady to spit.
I know Jenny Joseph had no idea her illustrative poem would be taken literally. She was simply trying to convey that getting older can be liberating in many ways, a time to try new things and let go of convention. I think most of us can embrace that philosophy. But with grandmothers across America signing up and dressing up, can spitting be far behind?
Joking aside, the Red Hat Society not only brings joy to the lives of its members, but to everyone who sees them out and about in their flashy finery. They remind us that getting older is mostly on the outside.
But I was wondering, what about the older men? Maybe the Red Hat Society should start a chapter for them, too. They could dress up in tuxedos and top hats, visiting local coffee shops, museums and sporting goods stores. They could call themselves the Purple Penguin Society, for instance. At the other end of the spectrum, they might wear loud flannel shirts with zany colored suspenders and call themselves the Red Suspender Society. Either way, it would be a sight to see.
I enjoyed learning more about this fun loving group of women. Their Web site is www.redhatsociety.com. But to read the age-defying poem, "Warning," by Jenny Joseph, I would suggest a Google search. I think you will find it is worth the effort.
In the mean time, though, why not put on your favorite hat or suspenders, call a couple friends, go out and have a nice cup of tea?
And by the way, if you need a pen I have a drawer of extras, your flowers look lovely on my dresser and where can I get a spittoon?