The Greatest Generation, Indeed

On the Sunday before Christmas, Mr. Gore and I sat down after  lunch to watch “White Christmas”. I had been terribly behind in my holiday movie viewing and was determined to catch up before Christmas Day.

But five minutes into the movie, I was silently crying. And not the kind of cry where one tear leaks out during the sentimental scene of a movie, but the kind where your shoulders are shaking and you’re working really hard to get a grip before your husband notices. “What’s wrong me with me?!” I thought…

Is it the story of the demoted general that set me off?…

or the nostalgia of watching one of my favorite movies one day before Christmas Eve, our beautifully lit Christmas tree in my peripheral vision?…

No.

Turns out I was pregnant and didn’t know it.

But, hormonal fluctuations aside, my tears were actually stemming from something else entirely, and it only took a few seconds of introspection to figure it out.

I have a longtime love for classic movies, dating back to my 12th year when I first saw June Allyson in the 1949 version of “Little Women” at my Aunt Myrtle’s house. Until that day, I knew very little about the treasure trove of “old” movies available for our viewing pleasure today, but five minutes into that sweet little version of one of my favorite books, I was a goner, and silly as it sounds, my life was forever changed.

As soon as we returned home from our trip, my Mom and I hunted down my own copy of the movie, a VHS tape that I still have today, and my home collection of classic films has consistently grown since that time, as has my appreciation for an era that I had previously had very little knowledge of. Nearly 20 years later, our musical playlists are full of tunes from Bing, Doris, Frank, Gene, and Judy (but my favorites are Bing and Doris), my clothes are almost always a nod to my vintage sisters, our life is often a throwback to another era, and you’ll more likely find my children watching “Yankee Doodle Dandy” than any show on Disney Jr. (mostly because we don’t have cable…).

And I think I might be in love with Gary Cooper (via Seargent York). Sighhh…

When the calendar hits 1960 is when Mrs. Gore and all of her love for nostalgia dies, but until that cultural shift takes place, you’ll find my heart. I love the clothes. I love the tunes. I love the backdrops and the technicolor and the “special” effects. I love the time.

But the reason I was crying today had very little to do with my love for old movies…

and everything to do with my love for the people those old movies bring to mind.

You see, part of the reason I love a classic film is that, when I watch it, there is something so familiar about it…

I know these people.

I recognize the cadence of their voices…

the way they hold themselves…

their manners…

their humor…

their little bitty waists…

their houses and their furnishings and their wardrobes…

and guess what? Many of them are still among us.

Their hair is grey now and more wiry than before, their eyes are hidden behind thick glasses, and their gait is measured where it once was spry, but there is no denying the fact that the era that those classic films represents is still very much alive today.

And these are my people.

I see many of them every week at church.

They are gentle and kind.

They aren’t vulgar.

They dress like ladies and gentleman, and their actions match their clothes.

And, like the soldiers singing “We’ll Follow the Old Man” in White Christmas, many of them were off being heroes during WWII, fighting one of the greatest villains the world has ever known, spending Christmases away from their families, and writing love letters to the same spouses they are with today.

And it just hits me every once in awhile (like it did that day watching “White Christmas”) that we are still rubbing shoulders with the “greatest generation”. We sit among heroes. The very thought of it will make a lady put her head in her hands and weep, whether she is pregnant or not.

Many of these precious people don’t understand our culture today, and if they seem quiet or stand-offish, I think they are probably just at a complete loss as to how they can engage such a foreign group of young folks. Or perhaps many of them think we don’t need or want them in our lives…

That’s why I want to encourage you today to take the first step and reach out to the elderly in your churches and in your community. Ask them questions about their past. Listen to them talk. Seek their guidance and advice. Pick up on their gentle humor.

I guarantee you that, in the course of your conversation, you’ll recognize the voices of Bing and Doris and Gary and Judy…

but you might also gain a wealth of wisdom, and perhaps some of the best friends you’ve ever had.

~

Me with one of my best friends in the world, Ms. Annette. Her friendship and wisdom enrich my life…

And it just hits me every once in awhile (like it did that day watching “White Christmas”) that we are still rubbing shoulders with the “greatest generation”. We sit among heroes. The very thought of it will make a lady put her head in her hands and weep, whether she is pregnant or not.

8 thoughts on “The Greatest Generation, Indeed

  1. Bravo for this post! My heart breaks for our many “elder orphans” who don’t have people like you around who appreciate them. We intentionally moved ourselves into the middle of a retirement community and chose a church full of “white haired” congregants so our boys would have the benefits of their wise presence. What a blessing it has been to worship with and live among these dear ones!

  2. Precious kindred spirit–not long ago my sisters and I said our final farewell to our father, who wore the same uniform as the general…and fought in the same war. Our black and white photos of him at his station overseas are among our dearest treasures. Before he left us, I interviewed him for hours and got down as much as I could of his memoirs.

    So true of the wisdom and perspective he and my aunts and uncles gave us as a legacy.
    Love you–
    PS–I also have the VHS of the older “Little Women” –and VHS of almost every other film you mention. Now I’m getting them also in DVD format when they come available. How my dad loved that scene where the troops sang, “We’ll follow the old man….”

  3. This post makes my heart ache. If I explained how much I agree with it all, my comment would be a novel. While I have a son, and I love him more than words can express, it’s not the children at church I’m drawn to. It’s the elderly. They have so much to offer. I find myself stopping them in stores, joining them on benches, chatting them up at gas stations. And the way their eyes light up when they realize you’re interested in engaging with them? It’s heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once. Thank you so much for this post.

  4. Last Sunday was the eve of the one year mark of losing Keith’s grandmother and as I sat among many elderly in our congregation on Sunday morning, it hit me all of the sudden that I was sitting with some of the greatest gifts within our church. My heart rejoiced when the pastor opened our service with asking us to greet those around us and I had the privilege of greeting so many of the sweet elderly in our congregation this particular morning.

    What a beautiful post.

  5. I so agree with you on this! My folks are 89 and 92 and they live close by in an ALF. We help out there often, so are surrounded by the greatest generation. Such grace and decorum…that is missing today. I miss that old time charm too. Wonderful reminder that the best among us will be gone soon. I just started following you. Visit it you’d like:
    from The Dugout

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