Thursday, April 20, 2017

Middle Age Musings

Entering my 40s has had an unexpected influence on my hobbies and general interests. In no way have I made a conscious effort to be any different than I've ever been, and yet I've come to realize recently that I've gone through a lot of changes since turning 40 two years ago, especially in regards to the things I'm interested in. 

It's not that I've abandoned all my old interests: I still love history and music and literature and intellectual pursuits. But the direction of all those things has changed since turning 40. 

In general, I seem to have started taking more of an interest in the past, particularly the past 150 years or so. 

"You say you love history; isn't history ALREADY about the past?" you may ask.

Well of course, but what I mean is that my musical and literary and even film/TV interests have, in recent years, turned towards events of the last 150 years. I've found myself listening to what I call "Old Timey" music (I have a so-named playlist on Amazon music that has nearly 150 songs ranging from the mid-1800s to the early 1900s), watching old TV shows and movies, and reading 19th and early 20th century novels. 

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you know I've been working on a songbook of "old timey" songs that I am arranging for solo piano. I just finished an H. Rider Haggard novel from 1886 and have since started a Jack London novel from 1908. This is the second Jack London novel I've read in the last 6 months and the eighth book I've read in the last year from the late 19th or early 20th century (and that's not counting a biography of Zachary Taylor - president in the 1840s - that I read a few months back).  



I've also started occasionally watching old movies and, especially, old TV shows. For instance, I've been making my way through the original Twilight Zone series over the last year or two, and I recently watched a movie from the 1970s that was about World War One.  I've been watching The Three Stooges and The Little Rascals on Hulu and hoping for them to get M*A*S*H. 

In addition to my "Old Timey" music on Amazon, I've also, in recent years, really gotten interested in classic country from the 40s through the 70s. I've got three different playlists of that music on Amazon Music (I'm listening to one right now, actually).

I enjoy watching shows on KET and PBS about early Kentucky and early America. I especially like old documentaries from the 70s and 80s on various topics (I watched one recently that was made in the 1970s and was about a Kentucky Derby clock that was being made by a Louisville artist who smoked like a freight train). 

This is the clock in question, still on display in Louisville

I'm not sure why I've had this sudden interest in various aspects of the last 150 years, but I think it might have to do with being more "in touch" with my grandparents and great-grandparents. 

"What the HELL are you talking about now, Schmoo?" I hear you asking. 

It may be another aspect of reaching middle age, but I have started thinking about my grandparents and great-grandparents a lot more in recent years, and even "talking" to them on occasion. 

I was not one of those who was blessed to have my grandparents (or great-grandparents) alive during a significant period of my adulthood. My parents were both the youngest of three children and my grandparents were all already in their 60s when I was born. By the time I was old enough to remember them, my grandparents were already "elderly." Three of my four grandparents lived into my adulthood, and my Dad's mother didn't die until I was 34, but after my childhood, I saw very little of my grandparents because they all lived out of town and I only saw them once or twice a year on average. And by then, between the distance and their increasing ages, it was hard to have any sort of "relationship" with them. 

In any case, since turning 40, I have found myself wanting to "connect" with my grandparents by experiencing the things they would have experienced - like the TV shows they would have watched or the music they would have listened to. Classic country music, for instance, makes me feel close to my grandfathers, knowing that it's the sort of music they liked listening to. Right now, "Sweet Dreams of Kentucky" is playing on my playlist. It's a song by Grandpa Jones of "Hee Haw" fame. I associated my Dad's father very closely with Grandpa Jones. They were born within a couple of years from each other in neighboring Kentucky counties and my Papaw loved a Grandpa Jones song called "8 More Miles to Louisville." I also have many memories of watching Hee Haw with my grandparents. 

As he got older, Grandpa Jones didn't have to wear make-up anymore

Now, a song by Tennessee Ernie Ford is playing - "Shotgun Boogie."  Another Tennessee Ernie song, called "16 Tons," reminds me strongly of my Mom's father, because it's a song about coal miners written by Merle Travis, who was from the same western Kentucky county that my Grandaddy was from. My Grandaddy was also a coal miner. So this song is, to me, basically about Oscar Kirby and the life he lived. 

Oscar with a gigantic cigar
In the same way, listening to, or playing on the piano, Stephen Foster songs, and other songs from the 19th century and early 20th century, reminds me, in general, of the lives my great- and great-great grandparents led, even though I didn't really know any of them. I know their names, thanks to Ancestry.com, and listening to the popular music of their lives makes me feel a connection with them.

Why, in middle age, has feeling a connection with my ancestors become so important to me? I don't know the answer to that. I just know that it's a thing now. I want to feel close to the ancestors I never knew or only knew for a brief time, and delving into the popular culture of their lives helps me to feel connected to them. 


2 comments:

Melanie said...

This is one of the many things I love and appreciate about you....❤

Elissa Christmas said...

It looks like Mom is sitting behind Grandaddy in that picture.

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