I saw something on Twitter that caught my attention:
"An American tradition is something that happened to a baby-boomer twice."
It was posted by someone much younger than I am and it made me wonder -- is it true? Upon further Internet sleuthing, I discovered that this quote is in reference to Christmas music, and how most of the music considered "traditional" for Christmas is from 1975 and earlier. Think of classics such as "The Christmas Song" by Nat King Cole, or "Feliz Navidad" by Jose Feliciano. Or how about the wave of nostalgia that hearing the theme to "A Charlie Brown Christmas," performed by Vince Guaraldi, can bring?
After reading the quote mentioned above, I wondered what kind of traditions our children will have that will be solely theirs -- are we imposing our nostalgia on their lives just by the sheer number of us? Do our kids have any interest in watching It's a Wonderful Life or listening to Bing Crosby sing White Christmas, or is it just a vast, generational humoring of the elder population when they do so?
There's been a lot written about how the boomers think the world belongs to them, and now that they are growing older, the world will grow older along with them -- and in fact, that is true to a certain extent. Look at the success of last summer's Hope Springs. George Clooney, an old man in Hollywood to be sure, is still one of the hottest guys out there -- he is arguably the standard by which all sex symbols are measured. This is someone who is certainly not young -- but is culturally still relevant, important and worthy of being on any magazine cover.
When most of the boomers were young, our parent's interests were about as remote as the moon, and much of our interests were unknowable -- and uninteresting -- to them. Sure, there was the occasional crossover -- my parents and I shared a great love of Elton John, for example -- but even the cultural influence of their generation was presented to us in a nostalgic package -- remember American Graffiti and Happy Days? We were all aware of the power of youth, and as our parents ceded control of the airwaves, the movies and television to us, they bowed out gracefully, thankful for the Rockford Files and the Golden Girls, Clint Eastwood movies and those cheesy record collections you could buy on late night TV, really the only source of their oldies but goodies, save for a few radio stations.
However, the boomers have held on to the control, trumpeting the beauty of age, the wisdom that comes with getting older, all while many of us try to keep the years from creeping up on us with surgery, injections, peels, trainers, Spanx, hair transplants and more. Is it really fair to our kids, the millenials and beyond, if we continue to act and live as though we are still young when they are young? Isn't there something a little desperate about wearing the same clothes your kids do? There's no dividing line, culturally speaking, and thanks to Facebook, the aforementioned Twitter, and so many other forms of information, there's nothing about young people that old people can't know if they're interested.
So how will our kids create their own "traditional" holiday music? Where will they find that moment of nostalgia? Will they continue to look to our cultural experience, because theirs moves at such a rapid pace that there's no time to create a memory? Will they actually remember the magic of sitting through an entire movie or album without any distractions -- no tweeting or texting or surfing -- but just watching, listening and absorbing? Maybe the problem isn't that boomers take up too much space -- maybe our kids just don't stay still enough to make a space of their own. Whatever the reason, I hope that someday they will hear Mariah Carey singing her close-to-perfect Christmas song All I Want for Christmas is You and feel a longing for the past, because we boomers know that one of the best things about getting older is remembering.
Follow Sharon Greenthal on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sharongreenthal