The Beatles or The Stones? In answer to the Proustian question, I’d have to say I’m definitely more of a Beatles fan. I love some of the early Stones’ music like Time is on My Side, and Satisfaction never fails to rev me up, but overall my loyalty inclines more toward The Beatles. The sensitivity and poetry of She’s Leaving Home, Eleanor Rigby and their many other songs can’t be denied. That’s why I was so anxious to see the movie Yesterday, which I finally managed to catch today—which as I’m now posting it a day later is actually, yesterday. It promised to be a major vehicle for their music and what boomer wouldn’t enjoy getting a little high from that. It’s a surreal story-line but well played by Himesh Patel (from BBC’s Eastenders) and Lily James (who played Lady Rose in Downton Abby) as lead characters Jack Malik and his childhood friend and supporter, Ellie.
Jack is a wanna-be part-time rock musician who works at a big box store by day and plays his music at pathetic evening and weekend gigs (shades of Saturday Night Fever’s plot?). Just as he’s ready to give up on his music career, a solar flare knocks out the entire world’s electricity for twelve seconds. When the power is restored, major contemporary cultural icons have simply disappeared from history, and everyone’s memory—except for Jack. All of a sudden, no one has heard of The Beatles, Coca-Cola, cigarettes or even Harry Potter.
Jack capitalizes on this gap in history by regurgitating all the Beatles’ music and claiming it as his own. He’s met with skepticism in the beginning but no one can argue the merits of the music and he soon becomes famous for his seemingly amazing song-writing skills. He’s picked up by a high-rolling Los Angeles agent, repackaged and remarketed but ends up unhappy despite the money and fame. There’s an underlying thwarted love story between Jack and Ellie because Hollywood always have to have a love story. Ed Sheeran played himself in the movie and his performance was most commendable. He was one of the better parts.
There was a surprise in store for this boomer going to the movies
I think the most remarkable part of going to see this movie for me was the fact I attended my first “Stars and Strollers” movie matinée. Until today, I didn’t even know there was such a thing. The 1:00 p.m. showing was specially created to accommodate young mothers and nannies with babies. Baaaad idea for an old boomer like me to attend and think everything would be fine. The house lights remain on low during the movie and the sound is reduced somewhat to accommodate what everyone hopes will be sleeping babies. I was warned by the ticket attendant about the possible inconveniences and he informed me that if I found the experience uncomfortable, I could get a refund.
The lower volume didn’t seem to be an issue as I simply turned up the volume on my hearing aids which in retrospect turned out to be another bad idea. The young mothers were all lined up with babies in their strollers in the front row and to my shock and surprise, there was even a fully-equipped change table set up front and centre in the theatre. As soon as the movie started, three babies took turns, tag-teaming the wailing, fussing and screaming. None of the mothers made a move to depart the theatre to spare us old boomer Beatle fans from the noise. They simply walked back and forth between the seats, sitting on the floor and otherwise, doing their mothering thing throughout the movie. Two of them even made use of the change table. How they were able to even get the gist of what the movie was about is beyond me because I heard less than half the dialogue and I wasn’t even attending to a screaming baby.
Now, it’s highly possible the “Stars and Strollers” experience coloured my impression of the movie but I really don’t think so. Don’t get me wrong; I love babies and can’t resist approaching a young mother pushing a stroller in the mall to admire her little one. Himesh Patel was excellent as Jack Malik and his singing was every bit as good as Paul McCartney, perhaps even better. Lily James was perfect, despite her annoying little lisp. But, overall, I found the movie trite and disappointing. The popcorn was good though and I always enjoy my pail full of Diet Coke. The guy in front of me texted throughout the entire movie so I guess he didn’t find the experience all that engaging either. I’d suggest you wait for Yesterday to come to television or get it free through your streaming service. But, I remain a firm Beatles fan which leaves me conflicted about the movie. The music was great, but as romcoms go, it was only OK. I wanted to like it but I didn’t. If you’ve seen it, what did you think? Am I being unfair?
P.S. And I didn’t ask for a refund. I was forewarned and I accept full blame for the outcome.
Scents touch a special chord, not only in our olfactory systems but also in our hearts and in our brains. We all can relate to a certain scent transporting us to another time and place. It’s a magical transformation. The smell of certain things baking in the oven may take us back to our mothers’ or grandmothers’ kitchens. Being near water may remind us of all those carefree days as children swimming in the lake or nearby river every summer. The fragrance of certain perfumes may transport us to memories of loved ones and ones we’ve loved. Whenever I open my late mother’s jewelry box, the lingering scent evokes the inside of her house and memories come flooding back. Sometimes, people who have lost a special person, keep a bathrobe or favourite sweater that carries the scent of that person, to provide comfort.
Ever since the days of owning a single bottle of (cheap) Evening in Paris cologne purchased at the local five and dime store and proudly displayed on my bedroom dresser when I was a teenager, I’ve been charmed and affected by fragrance. I love the different moods each one presents. I adore the beautiful bottles. I feel so feminine and uplifted when I spritz myself each morning. Over the years, I’ve accumulated a sizeable collection and even though many, if not most of my bottles are probably past their best-before date, I cannot part with them.
When I first started working for Bell Telephone on University Avenue in Toronto in 1965, my girlfriend and I used to go into the drugstore behind our office building on our lunch hour and spray ourselves with generous quantities of expensive perfumes we couldn’t afford to buy on our clerk-typist wages. White Shoulders and L’air du Temps were always favourites. I’m sure there were many days when we came back into the office after lunch nearly asphyxiating our coworkers after we’d doused ourselves in lilac or lily of the valley perfumes of questionable quality. As they say, ‘those were the days, my friend’.
There was a time in the ’80s when blooming boomers were encouraged to adopt a ‘signature scent’. Offices were awash in Opium, Red Door, Obsession, and Poison. One of the girls in my office came to work every day drenched in Cartier’s expensive La Panthère. I’ve never been able to limit myself to just one fragrance. Some days I’m in the mood for floral; other days I lean toward citrus or spicey. Does anyone remember wearing Shalimar or Estée Lauder’s Youth Dew in the ’60s? Or Elizabeth Arden’s Blue Grass? We were so sophisticated. When I worked in Eaton’s College Street store’s cosmetics department in 1970, we had people who came in purposely to buy giant bottles of 4711. We also sold a lot of Jean Naté, Yardley’s Lavender and Chantilly in the pink bottle. Remember them?
My favourite fragrance is called Émilie by French perfumier Fragonard. Émilie is a blend that includes my favourite flowers, rose, and jasmine. I first experienced this fragrance in 2012 when I toured southern France with a group of ladies guided by decorating and style guru Kimberley Seldon. We toured the Fragonard factory in Grasse, France where we were able to see how they gather the blooms, then distill and manufacture the various fragrances according to which flowers are in season. I also once toured a small, second-floor perfume museum near the Opera House in Paris and thoroughly enjoyed myself.
After I originally purchased a tiny atomizer of Fragonard’s Émilie and it turned out to be so amazingly beautiful, I went to the internet the following year to order more. A few weeks later, to my great delight, a more substantial bottle arrived in the mail, all the way from France. Sometime later, however, I was disappointed to receive a notice from them that they would no longer be able to send it to me as postal regulations forbid certain chemicals and liquids being sent by mail. I guess I’ll just have to fly to France to restock. It’s available on Amazon from third-party sellers but I’ve never ordered from them so I can’t vouch for their authenticity. I did manage to pick up another bottle a couple of years ago when I was In France which should last me long after I go to the ‘home’. I only hope my fellow residents will enjoy it as much as I do—cough, cough.
What seems to distinguish the Fragonard perfume from so many (and there are soooo many) available on the market today, is the purity of the fragrance. Perhaps it’s just me, but whenever I try a sample of some new fragrance being launched, I find it inevitably leaves an unpleasant chemical smell on my skin, not the clear floral fragrance I’m looking for. So many perfumes today, even from the major perfume houses, contain so many synthetic ingredients that they all smell the same. And, as we all know, each one reacts differently with our individual body chemistry. Chanel No. 5 always smells like ginger ale on me while it’s divine on a friend of mine.
One day when I was in the Hudson’s Bay store’s perfume department, a customer produced a small gold atomizer like the Fragonard one I bought in France, asking the sales associate to find something similar. Her daughter had bought it for her, also in France, and she wanted to replicate it. ‘Good luck’, I thought, as I meandered off. I once read somewhere that Michelle Obama wears Cartier’s Délice which has a delicate cherry essence. I couldn’t get myself off fast enough to Holt Renfrew to spritz myself from the tester, hoping to capture just a tiny bit of her essence.
Even the scent of sheets dried outside in the fresh air is enough to send me into paroxysms of bliss. A whiff of fresh spruce can return me to the Christmas trees in my childhood home. Does the smell of wood smoke remind you of summer camping trips? The smell of Neutrogena soap always puts me in the hands of Dr. Cornish, an old dentist I had fifty years ago, in the days when dentists didn’t wear latex gloves, just washing their hands for every new patient. The unique scent of old-fashioned ivory soap reminds me of time spent as a child at a friend’s cottage.
Perhaps my aging nose has lost some of its sensitivity as the years go by. As my sense of smell diminishes, I pity the people fainting in my wake as I stroll down the street in a suffocating cloud of my floral scent du jour, oblivious to those with allergies or an aversion to fragrance. I absolutely adore fragrance and will never stop wearing it. For whatever effect scent has on our brains and hearts, I’m not going to deny myself.
Are you a fragrance aficionado like me? What’s your favourite and what memories does it evoke?
There isn’t a boomer gal alive who hasn’t at one time clipped a Cathy cartoon out of the daily newspaper and attached it to her fridge, tacked it to her bulletin board at work, or sent it to a friend. We were devastated when she ‘retired’ from her daily comic strip a few years ago but she’s back in the saddle with a new book that picks up where she left off. Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault by Cathy Guisewite is like reading her famous comic strip in narrative style—fifty scenarios written out in essay form—which is interesting and fun to read. Despite her high profile for more than thirty years of drawing her comic strips, I really knew very little about her personal life and this book provided some valuable back story.
Cathy Guisewite was born in 1950 in Dayton, Ohio. With two sisters, a stay-at-home mother and a father in the advertising business, she was the stereotypical baby boomer. By the time she finished college and started working for an ad agency, she had become part of a massive swell of young boomer women who were faced with challenges and opportunities unknown and not experienced by previous generations. Baby boomer women could now supposedly achieve business success while marrying and raising children. None of these life stages had been experienced in quite the same way before and we weren’t always successful in negotiating the career, dating, marriage and motherhood scenes. Cathy quickly picked up on these conflicts and brilliantly began detailing the challenges faced by our generation in a little cartoon that was soon syndicated by newspapers around the world.
As I was reading each of the fifty essays, I found myself imaging how she would have drawn them. Each one was worth several cartoon strips alone so it was like reading more than a year’s worth of Cathy cartoons in my imagination. What I hadn’t realized is that the real Cathy didn’t marry until she was forty-seven and by then she was already the mother of an adopted daughter to whom she is devoted and who is a major source of new material for the book. That knowledge had me reflecting on the struggles her cartoon alter-ego, Andrea faced when she became a mother.
The book is chock full of great Cathy-isms:
Not my fault the headlines were so depressing this morning, the only way I could reclaim some personal power was to go online and buy another pair of shoes! (which I personally did, yesterday)
Not my fault that I believe my wants and needs are more deeply understood by Amazon Prime than by 99 percent of the men I ever dated!
What if men had a store full of the equivalent of padded push-up bras for their manhood and peer pressure from their entire generation to shop there?
My generation ruined retirement. Nobody gets to get old anymore. Why can’t we just sit in nice plastic lawn chairs in the backyard like Grandma used to?
She shares her joys and the frustrations of motherhood. As part of the sandwich generation, Guisewite is subject to the push and pull of parenting in both directions—with her own daughter (who is now in college) and keeping watch on her aging parents. Her stories about trying to bring her 90-year-old parents into the twenty-first century with wireless devices, decluttering and healthy eating are not only hilarious to read but soooo relateable for boomers.
We grew up with Cathy, sharing her boyfriend/relationship challenges, fashion foibles, mother issues, career politics, and we even loved her little dog, Electra. Whatever she faced, we’d faced it too. Too many pairs of seemingly similar black shoes, weight and fashion challenges, bathing suit shame, we’ve all been there. We loved the caring innocence of her mother’s watchful eye, her father’s protective hand and her girlfriends’ empathy and loyalty. As she lived her life, so did we. We shared her pain and rejoiced in her minor triumphs.
Fifty Things That Aren’t My Fault is a fast read. I bookmarked so many pages of her descriptions of issues with her parents that I don’t think she missed a single thing we haven’t all experienced. Ironically, the only thing I think would have improved the book is a few more of her brilliant illustrations. We love Cathy and I thoroughly enjoyed her book. If you’re looking for something on the lighter side, then you’ll enjoy Fifty Things. I’d give it 8 out of 10.
As if I weren’t feeling insecure enough already after a recent closet purge to get rid of things that didn’t “fit and flatter”, I foolishly went shopping for new jeans this week. The jeans and general closet purge preceded my recent big bra purge (by that I mean quantity not bra size, obviously). Embarrassed and frustrated with a closet full of jeans that no longer fit, tops that made me look pregnant and sweaters that only flattered my lumps and bumps, I trucked bags of cast-offs to charity bins and the consignment shop. That left me with only two pairs of jeans that were marginally comfortable and not too embarrassing to wear out in public. A trip to the mall was needed to remedy the situation. (Doesn’t that solve pretty much any existential crisis?)
Buying new jeans can be every bit as painful as trying on bathing suits, which I gave up on a long time ago. The process can involve visiting different stores and, lo, even different malls in different area codes in search of the perfect fit for the less-than-perfect body. I’ve always had the best luck with NYDJ (Not Your Daughter’s Jeans) as I’m only 5’3″ and their petite and ankle-length sizes usually fit me perfectly. Not this time. I was looking for a mid-blue colour (not too pale and not too dark as the only two remaining pair I have are light blue and dark wash), no holes in the knees or thighs (boomers understand why), a nice ankle-grazing length for summer and also with summer in mind, softly distressed and not too heavy. I also prefer the high waisted style that does a better job of corraling muffin-top than those ridiculous designs with a 5-inch rise. NYDJ didn’t have just what I was looking for so I had to cast further afield which is a terrifying prospect. Who else makes jeans for boomers who aren’t 6 ft. tall and weigh 94 lbs? Was I asking for the impossible?
I started in Hudson’s Bay Company at Sherway Gardens in Toronto. I didn’t want to invest in expensive designer jeans because I was casually considering a frayed hem which will probably be out of style next season or more likely, within the next ten minutes. The Bay has a wide range of brands and sizes, many of which are conveniently on sale at this time of year to clear out current inventory in preparation for next week’s fickle trend. No luck. I’m always on the cusp of being current, but not quite there. I also learned that Top Shop is unaware that there’s a large portion of the population that is not size 00. No one I know has a 25″ waist and 32″ inseam and I know a lot of people.
So I went to my favourite store, Nordstrom which tends to carry more high-end merchandise. Jeans shopping calls for desperate measures. The only ones that came close were Frame but at more than $300.00 the fit was only so-so. If they don’t feel marvelous when I try them on, they’re doomed to languish in my closet unworn. If I’ve learned nothing else about clothes’ shopping over the last sixty years, it’s that if I don’t absolutely love an item immediately, don’t buy it. I have a mantra I repeat when I’m in the fitting room: “If in doubt—DON’T!”. That’s saved my bacon many times, preventing me from committing serious fashion “don’ts”. Meanwhile, I’m trying not to recall those cute little 27-inch-waist jeans with the snappy red zippers at the ankles, that I once purchased for my once lean young body at Bayview Village—many years ago.
Leaving Nordstrom, I hit every store in Sherway Gardens that carries jeans. That included The Gap, the Levi’s store, ZARA, Mendocino, Andrews, Dynamite, Eileen Fisher, Eagle Outfitters . . . and on and on and on. My feet felt like clubs and my self-esteem was totally crushed. Most of the children working in those stores had no understanding or sympathy for my plight—like it’s my fault I’m old, fat and frumpy. Their day will come. Just wait ’til menopause hits them and I hope they remember how cavalier they once were about me being unable to zip up their stupid, skinny jeans. I ventured into stores I didn’t even know existed until I went hunting for a new pair of inexpensive, fashionable jeans. I’m now very familiar with the millennial world of disposable clothing. Not that their clothing lines were able to offer anything remotely appropriate.
Even the Levi’s store which has wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling shelves stacked with jeans of every style, colour, cut and uncut, still couldn’t find a pair that fit my boomer body. What they did have, however, was a seamstress sitting at the centre of the store in front of a very scary looking commercial sewing machine that could embellish my jeans or jean jacket with any type of logo, sparkle, fringe or embroidery I could dream of. The girl operating the machine wore black lipstick with a lip ring piercing her lower lip, purple, pink and black spiked hair and a tight tee shirt that made it easy to calculate her bra size if she had been wearing one. Her false eyelashes were thick and heavy enough to scrape the mud off your golf shoes. And, the store’s piped-in music was selected specifically to scare off weird interlopers like me, which it was successful in doing.
My excursions to find the perfect replacement jeans also made me an expert on retail dressing rooms. They are all consistently poorly-lit, and frequently lacking in hooks for my purse and the clothes I’m wearing. Rails are great for what I bring into the change room already on hangers, but unless there are hooks, I’m forced to drop my clothes on the floor. And, the floor of every dressing room is crawling with dust bunnies and questionable fungi, particularly close to the baseboards, which are, well, close because most dressing rooms are . . . close. And, not many change rooms have a chair or stool to perch on when we’re trying to put our shoes back on—which would be a much-appreciated amenity for boomer bottoms. And if you’re shy about all that cellulite and overflow being visible to passers-by when you’re stripped down to your frillies, then take the jeans home to try them on because those ring-topped curtains never quite completely close to give you privacy during your darkest hours.
After three separate excursions to the mall and trawling dozens of stores, I finally circled back to Hudson’s Bay because that’s where my car was parked. I made a last-minute detour into the lingerie department in a vain search once again for suitable nightgowns. No luck there either, although I purchased another sports bra, the only kind that seems to offer any degree of comfort. As I was approaching the elevator, I thought I’d pick up that white linen Ralph Lauren blouse I saw on sale earlier in the day (as if I need another white blouse!!). To get to the change room, I had to pass through the BCBG Maxazaria section that was all but abandoned (they’ve closed a lot of their stand-alone retail locations). Everything except the striped blazer I liked was on sale, including their jeans. I’d never considered that brand as a suitable candidate for this body as most of their fashions are for wisp-thin gals with a social life far beyond my level of experience.
The nice lady with the Polish accent who was working the change room check-in desk complimented me on my choice. Lifting up her blouse to show me how well BCBG’s jeans fit her trim, young body, I should have felt reassured but of course, felt even fatter. She ushered me into an adequately-sized change room with a hanging rail, stool, and hooks (!!!), where I tried on a pair of soft jeans in what is usually my size. Too big! Thank you vanity sizing.
By then, nice Polish lady had disappeared (as we all know, Hudson’s Bay Company only employs one sales person per store in the suburbs) so I had to grab my purse and waddle back out into the store in my ill-fitting jeans to find another size. After two more tries and managing to lock myself out of my own change room, I finally found a pair that were soft, sufficiently contained all my floppy bits without pinching and actually were almost perfect. All I have to do is cut six inches off the hem.
Even though they were on sale, they still cost more than I would have liked to pay, but it seems body dysmorphics like me have to settle for and be happy with whatever is close. I’ll be damned if I’m going to buy jeans with pregnancy panels. I’m not that big, yet! What on earth do truly full-bodied women do?
So, just when I was beginning to despair of ever finding a simple pair of everyday jeans that fit me, in my native province, Lynda now has a new pair of jeans. After I chop half a foot off the bottoms, I’m going to try a do-it-yourself version of a frayed hem. I never like the way altered hems on jeans look (regardless of what the alterationist says is a fool-proof European stitch-job). I’ve marked the line; I’m going to stay-stitch the new line on my 52-year-old cast iron Singer sewing machine, just the way the real raw-hem jeans are done, chop off the excess fabric, carefully hand pick and fray away the bottom hem to create that perfect look so that I can wear them proudly before they go out of fashion on Tuesday.
When you see me struttin’ out in my new jeans, be sure to compliment me. I’m physically and emotionally exhausted from the experience and could use some reassurance that my efforts weren’t in vain. All those young millennials cruising the streets and malls in their perfectly fitted, just-so-perfectly distressed jeans on their perfectly firm little bottoms have my future to look forward to. Rest up all you young Ava’s, Sophia’s, Harper’s or whatever trendy new name you have these days. Someday, you too will lose your waistline, be unable to walk in stilettos and suffer hot flashes for twenty years longer than you expected. I should probably feel ashamed about taking pleasure in the sadistic knowledge that they too will someday mourn the loss of what they so take for granted today.
There was a time when I also thought I’d be able to wear mini-skirts and high platform heels until death do us part, but alas, time catches up with us all. Maybe this is nature’s way of telling me I should no longer be wearing jeans. Naw! Boomers practically invented jeans and made them part of everyday fashion lexicon for eternity. I refuse to be beaten by a generation of consumers who is completely unaware that we boomers are the generation to thank for their wardrobe staple. We’ve grown from being offered only one choice of stiff, dark blue denim Levi’s in the sixties that we had to wear sitting in the bathtub full of hot water and salt to start to break them in and bend to our individual body shapes, to zillions of different styles, washes, manufacturers and colours, none of which fit us or are appropriate. We must rise up and demand our due, preferably with a high rise. I love jeans. I deserve to wear jeans. I will not be wedged out by built-in obsolescence and a nuclear wedgie. Welcome to the Age of Nefarious mes chères.
When I left the theatre after seeing Mindy Kaling’s new movie Late Night, I was struck by how much I thought boomer gals would enjoy seeing it, especially since there are so few movies that appeal to us. Then, it occurred to me that men would equally benefit from the movie’s message, although don’t tell them that or they’ll never accompany you. It reeks of ‘chick, flick’ but the message is universal and delivered through clever humour. At times it was a bit soppy, but given Kaling’s excellent writing, it can be forgiven.
Kaling wrote “Late Night” with Emma Thompson in mind for the lead role of Katherine Newbury. It’s the story of a late-night talk show host who is past her prime and the network wants to replace her with a youthful, male comedian who dispenses a steady stream of frat-boy humour that they think is more ratings-friendly. Sound familiar? Much of the action takes place in the television writers’ room where the politics, sexism, ageism and other ism’s that unfold are universally familiar to anyone who has worked in an office environment or anywhere else, for that matter. Listen carefully to the quick dialogue early in the movie and you’ll hear a number of familiar references to the unfairness of pay scales, cultural diversity, and sexism.
Kaling plays Molly Patel, a version of herself, a smart, brown-skinned, ambitious writer and standup comedy aficionado who works at a chemical plant. Through her own ingenuity, she uncovers a job opportunity for a writer at a late night talk show owned by their parent company just at a time when the show’s star, Katherine Newbury demands more diversity in the all-male writing staff. It’s a bit formulaic but fun nonetheless thanks to Kaling’s strong writing and skill in observing human behaviour. It’s a fun movie with some laugh-out-loud moments.
John Lithgow plays Newbury’s supportive but ailing husband, with dignity and intelligence. Reid Scott is a nice piece of eye candy as Tom Campbell, the writer of Katherine’s daily monologue. (I loved him in his earlier role of Dan Egan in HBO’s VEEP with Julia Louis-Dreyfus.) There are a couple of fun cameo appearances by Bill Maher and Seth Meyers which ups the ante a bit. And Emma Thompson has a killer wardrobe.
I went into this movie already a fan of Mindy Kaling. As one of the former writers and stars of The Office” and The Mindy Kaling Project and author of two books (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?and Why Not Me?), both of which I’ve read and reviewed, Kaling deserves credit. She’s smart, funny and talented. Great combo. Late Night is a nice way to spend an afternoon. Show your support for women writers, actors and feminist themes and go see Late Night with a couple of girlfriends. And, if you can trick the men in your life into thinking it’s not a chick flick, they’ll learn something too. I’ve always maintained that re-educating men on privileges and issues they take for granted is good for everyone. And that is one small step for women at any time of the day or night. Late Night (2019) – Rotten Tomatoes
Call me old-fashioned but I love getting mail, the kind now referred to as snail mail. If a day goes by that I don’t get a magazine or something personal in my mailbox, I can get downright cranky. Is it because my life is so utterly lacking in excitement that the mail is a big deal to me? Even my little dog jumps up and down spinning with excitement when I announce, “Let’s go get the mail”. She understands.
Yesterday I was thrilled to find my mailbox stuffed with magazines, mail order catalogues, a couple of personal envelopes and even (praise be!) an envelope that obviously had a cheque enclosed. But my joy soon turned to disappointment when, upon closer examination, I realized the mail carrier had mistakenly put our neighbour’s mail in our box. Our neighbour was the recipient of all this wonderful bounty. I was tempted to score a couple of the mail order catalogues for myself thinking she wouldn’t miss them, but honesty prevailed and I reluctantly stuffed them into her mailbox.
Remember when we used to regularly get newsy letters, written by hand in loving cursive with a fountain pen? As kids we had pen pals in England who sent us letters on those thin blue airmail forms, telling us all about their lives far across the ocean. Even Christmas and birthday cards are rare these days as people either don’t bother or they opt for e-cards. Email has totally replaced hand-written letters. Will the love letters from war veterans of today have the same cachet and impact when they’re lost in the ether of email or Skype? Somehow the old sentimental letters our fathers, uncles and grandfathers wrote home from overseas in fountain pen or scratchy pencil seem so much more meaningful, more enduring and more historically significant because they were written by hand, addressed, stuffed into an envelope with a stamp to be saved in a book, slipped into a mailbox, then bundled and tied with a ribbon to be saved by the recipient.
I was saddened and disappointed to learn that many people now object to “Amber Alerts” because they also land in the middle of the night. So many people now sleep with their phones by their bedside that it’s become impossible to even have a peaceful night’s sleep without feeling the need to be connected via electronic devices. Other than doctors and firefighters, who among us is so important that they need to be ‘on call’ during the night? If keeping your phone alive while you sleep means Amber Alerts disturb you, then shame on you.
Our addiction to personal electronic devices means we now get mail 24/7. That familiar ping announces the arrival of requests from friends to meet for lunch, a reminder that we have a dentist appointment at 2:15 tomorrow and less welcome notices such as bill payments due or worse, overdue. Mail is no longer fun. It’s something to be given the once-over, reviewed, culled, acted upon or dumped. Another time-consuming chore in an already busy day.
We have a “No Junk Mail” sign posted on the mailbox on our front porch which greatly lightens the load in our paper recycling bin each week. That means most of what lands in our mailbox is the real thing and I look forward to receiving it each day. Sometimes there’s a hand-written thank you note from a friend or a birthday card when it’s time for the annual celebration. Most often it’s statements, announcements, promotions and printed material that actually qualifies as junk mail but the marketers were able to circumvent immediate disposal by enclosing it in an envelope with a first class stamp. Their trickery works as I open each one and read it before tossing into recycling.
My passion for print publications like magazines ensures my mailbox has regular deposits of good stuff though. A couple of years ago I received a three-page hand-written letter from someone (another baby boomer) I stayed with on an American army base in Germany in 1968 when I was travelling around on a Eurail Pass. I’ve kept that letter in my desk ever since, a relic of times gone by when people actually hand-wrote letters. They’re so rare and so precious now, they’re like collectors’ items. I’m afraid to part with it in case I never get another one in this lifetime. Even wedding invitations are now getting the electronic treatment. No more embossed cards to be saved in a scrapbook.
I still buy little boxes of illustrated note cards at the stationery store in hopes that I’ll have an excuse to write and send one to a friend. I take special care when selecting and mailing (by snail mail) birthday and anniversary cards to the special people in my life. I can’t help feeling they enjoy receiving them as much as I do—a little ray of sunshine in a gloomy pile of flyers and junk. Much as I appreciate and enjoy receiving instant photos and news from friends by email, I’ll always save a little spot in my heart for the old-fashioned kind that the nice letter carrier from Canada Post drops into the mailbox on my front porch every day around noon. It could be a letter, a card or even a cheque. Whatever it is, it’s special because it was delivered personally, by hand. Still.
→To order a copy of my new book
BOOMER BEAT from Amazon, click here.
Great hostess or birthday gift for yourself or a friend.