They think I’m crazy.
I can name every resident and their address in 17th century New Amsterdam – but only a few of my present neighbors. I can tell you what foods came from Dutch New York – but can’t eat any of them because of my “healthy” diet.
Would you like to know what Peter Stuyvesant wore in 1664? No problem – even though I can’t remember what I wore yesterday.
It’s tough being in Nana’s Storybook as author, hero, and villain. It’s even harder when you’re “after fifty” and the world expects you to be reasonable, dignified, and wise.
Where’s the fun?
OK – I confess. I just completed a series of seven novels with one located in New Amsterdam, 1660. Do you know what that means? When my friends discuss the best shows on Broadway, I tell them the glitzy street was originally a dirt path filled with noisy taverns, smelly pigs, groping drunks, and hookers.
They’re not impressed.
I add that if they want a drink, try a tankard of ale or brandywein. Stay true to the Dutch. In those days – perhaps not much different from today – New Amsterdam children were given watered-down beer because the drinking water wasn’t safe.
They take it the wrong way. I get strange looks instead of smiles. Even my kids are afraid I might slip something into my grandkid’s Sippy Cups.
What’s a Nana to do? Bury myself in squeaky Minions or Matchbox cars? I would rather play competitive soccer with a two-year old or discuss the purple elephant that lives the backyard – the one that eats ice cream for breakfast and chocolate chip cookies for dinner.
Aren’t those adequate credentials?
I bet you don’t know that the same purple elephant can live on a rooftop and scare away monsters who show up in bad dreams.
People are too literal – not literary. Perhaps I need a pink giraffe or polka-dotted alien in my kitchen? Even the holiday toys are clichés. Do kids really need another Batman Cave or Barbie Doll? Isn’t a Makey Makey Kit that turns bananas into touchpads more fun? How about Lego-like blocks big enough to build a life-size castle?
Where’s the magic?
Things are different in Nana’s Storybook. I don’t have to worry about whether a pink pacifier will scar a kid for life or a cartoon alien who should be X rated. I don’t have to be a Mom or Dad. Instead, my dog barks when I hold up a sign that says “talk.” Clearly he can read. The four-year old is impressed. The skeptical 8-year old demands that the dog read an entire book. Even worse, he insists that the cuddly critter read my book. You know – the one about New Amsterdam.
There’s a lesson in all this. Nana’s storybook is a bit crazy. The practical solution is to bring her to show-and-tell. Prove that after fifty you can be a grandparent with a storybook that isn’t a cliché. You don’t have to live on the roof with the purple elephant to make it happen.
Young or old, life can be boring when there are no purple elephants, pink giraffes, and dogs that read. The New Amsterdam people who chase their pigs down Broadway are more interesting than neighbors who debate termites. If I can’t eat Dutch panicakes, I’ll make a sugar-free, low-fat version. No one will know the difference.
Nana’s storybook is rich with fantasy and imagination.
How about writing your own storybook? Cuddle with a plaid elephant and bake magic smart cookies. All you need is a grin and the chocolate chip imagination of children.
Your kids might think you’re crazy. Your grand-kids will love it.
Editor’s Notes: You can visit contributor Dr. Jeri Fink at her website, HauntedFamilyTrees.com. She believes “after fifty” is a creative, exciting time to grow and explore new ideas, places, and media – defying those creaky myths of aging. A recent project –Broken – is a seven-book series of thrillers that involves all ages, from baby boomers to new adults. She tells us: “I challenged the art of storytelling by merging fact, fiction, and photography into riveting, bestselling novels. It emerges from my work as a Family Therapist; expertise in family psychology and history; research into psychopaths and The Psychopathic Spectrum; and passion in photography and photo analysis. My 28 published books, hundreds of articles and blogs, speaking engagements around the country, and active online presence all reflect my many life experiences.”
Subscribe to her e-mail lists on photo insights and haunted family trees; read her blogs ranging from photo analysis, psychopaths, facts about who we are, and inside the author’s head. Visit www.hauntedfamilytrees.com where you’ll read cutting-edge psychology; discover the secrets of haunted family trees – from the infamous to your own; and experience photo insights at their best. Share her life-changing expeditions to places like Antarctica and the Arctic on scribd.com (all completed after turning 60). She and her husband of 46 years absolutely cherish their four grandchildren, along with a pair of very rambunctious dogs.