We all grow old, one hopes, but not everyone becomes an elder.
I have somehow crossed that mysterious threshold where I am no longer young. My hair has a bit more gray in it every year. I am starting to get a bit, just a bit, crinkly at the corner of the eyes. I have to be careful about camera angles and my neck. I have had my first mammogram. I am baffled by the appeal of hip huggers. I no longer wear mini-skirts, and I have developed my mother's belly and butt.
Really, I'm not yet chronologically old. I'm not even sure if I'm yet middle aged. I'm making peace with the body changes--for the most part, most of the time--because for now they're fairly subtle. I live in mortal fear, however, of becoming a cranky old woman.
I have definite cranky old woman tendencies, not the least of which is an unpleasant habit of ranting: at the television, at litterbugs, at drivers, at irresponsible pet owners, at the news. I can see people's eyes glazing over, and I rant on. I have even begun ranting about kids-these-days, when I see them playing catch in the old man's yard and know they've already broken two of his windows.
One cannot simply will oneself into being an elder.
I have a fairly specialized skill that I have been plying for about 15 years. I am watching some new people try to master that skill, and they are not asking for any of my help, advice, or feedback. It's not a skill that will change the universe, but it's a cool skill and I do have insights. Keeping them to myself until asked will be good for me, teach me a life lesson, and help me to age with grace. I hope.
I have had two encounters with elders this week. I met an old Bosnian woman who, when she saw me knitting the lacy sock in her daughter's restaurant rushed over to see and to "talk," although "ne zam Ingles" and I certainly "ne zam Bosanski jezik." Still, we "talked" about knitting, shared our sock techniques, laughed at how long it took, and how obsessive we were. She has invited me to come back to the restaurant and knit with her when I can.
The other encounter was yesterday as I met a group of activists headed off to "support the elders" on the Navajo reservation. They planned to chop wood, haul water, herd sheep, and offer massages. That last part made me feel old. I remember that youthful sense that by tie-dying shirts and collecting signatures, we could convince China to leave Tibet or that we could hold Morton Thiakol responsible for the space shuttle disaster and for the spread of nuclear weapons.
Now, I have to look up how to spell "Thiakol." I have cut up many of my tie-dyes and worked them into a quilt. I have sold most of my LPs. China has built a railroad bridge into Tibet.
My knitting guild meets this weekend, and there will be elders there. British war brides. Women who have lived full lives. Women who have been around since God was in short pants. Women who are likely amused by the whole Stitch-N-Bitch generation. I can't wait to spend my Saturday with them, and to join the community of elders, if only for an afternoon.